MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Dozens of people took a step into the new year together in downtown Myrtle Beach on Wednesday.
Rev. Timothy McCray organized the Faith Walk event in the hopes of uniting law enforcement agencies and faith-based organizations.
“How can faith communities work with government to address some of these major issues that are facing our city?” McCray said. “By doing that, we start out the year right and we’re bringing our leadership together to talk about what can we do to support our city government and that’s what we are going to do.”
Prosperity, leadership and protection are among the things walkers wished for in 2020 during the annual Faith Walk.
McCray first hosted a walk in 2015 to address concerns about safety at Bike Week. He said he hasn’t held one in a few years but wanted to bring it back in 2020 to address human trafficking.
“We can’t do it just by ourselves; we need higher power and working together as a unified effort to address these issues,” McCray said.
There were more than 150 human trafficking cases reported in South Carolina in 2018, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
Around 1,300 people have been victims of human trafficking since 2007, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
Horry County ranked second in the state for human trafficking cases based on the South Carolina Human Trafficking Task Force’s 2018 report.
Throughout S.C., there were nearly 200 victims in 2017, according to the state report.
“We are trying to make people aware that human trafficking is going on and it’s not like what they typically see. When people think of human trafficking they automatically think of that movie ‘Taken’ and while that does happen that is not what our focus is, said Lt. Sherri Smith, co-chair of the Coastal Human Trafficking Task Force.
Smith explained some of the focus is on victims getting preyed upon through social media and getting help to runaways. She said awareness and training is a key goal of the task force.
“How do you peel an onion? One layer at a time. That’s what I think about this is these people coming together, they’re one voice that’s going to take it back to other people wherever they are,” Smith said.
She said after the walk she felt proud and excited about future awareness opportunities with community members in attendance.
“Just knowing that our community is coming together to fight this and be a part of it and help us help those victims and find them and get them the help that they need,” Smith said.
Benjamin Brown was one of the attendees on Wednesday. He said he never knew human trafficking was such a big issue in Myrtle Beach.
“That’s kind of scary but if people get more involved and people start paying attention certain signs will cause you to recognize maybe they shouldn’t be here and you’ll notify someone,” Brown said.
Brown and his wife attended the Faith Walk as part of their 2020 goal to get more active in the Christian community.They said they walked away with a new perspective on local issues and will be attending more in the future.
The walk started at Myrtle Beach City Hall and ended at Chapin Park.
McCray said he plans on holding other Faith Walks throughout the year and hold more meetings between organizations to continue to bring awareness to the issues and create a sustainable plan.
The Coastal Regional Human Trafficking Task Force will also be holding multiple events throughout January.