MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Would you be able to identify human trafficking if you saw it? Apparently human trafficking is happening here and a new study claims Myrtle Beach is a hot spot for the crime during Bikefest.
Carnegie Melon University's Auton Lab published the study Wednesday. Researchers examined patterns in 32 million different ads since 2011 that specifically offered female escorts and related services. These ads only offered services in cities during big national events like the Super Bowl, conventions and in the case here, Bikefest. The researchers looked for key words in the ads like "no pimps" or "young" because words like those usually mean that specific ad is linked to sex trafficking, according to law enforcement.
The study reports during Bikefest 2013, 150 ads offering sexual services were posted in the Myrtle Beach area. During the same time of year in 2014, 107 ads were posted, and in 2015: 105 ads.
But Myrtle Beach Police Department spokesperson Joey Crosby says the numbers of human trafficking the study reported may not be accurate. "We're concerned with how they compiled that information, how accurate that information is. But the take away story from this is this: we realize that human trafficking is a serious crime that's why we were proactive in making sure we had a regulation in place well in advance."
The police department developed a human trafficking task force and partnered with the Attorney General's office for advanced training. "There's various methods at which human trafficking can occur and that's why we got the officers the training that they need to be able to identify those methods and techniques. And also what resources are available to the victims to make sure they have the proper resources whether it be someone to speak, medical resources or whatever it may be whatever their needs may be to make sure we meet them once they've been identified," Crosby said.
The human trafficking task force in Myrtle Beach is a year-around force to prevent the crime. While human trafficking may increase like the city's population during Bikefest, it's not considered a huge problem here in Myrtle Beach. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center reported 43 cases of human trafficking in South Carolina in 2015.
If you need help or have a tip, the human trafficking hotline operates 24/7. That number is 888-373-7888.