Greenville Co. Sheriff's Office to launch human trafficking camp - FOX Carolina 21

Greenville Co. Sheriff's Office to launch human trafficking campaign

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The South Carolina Attorney General said human trafficking is the fastest growing problem in the world and the Upstate is no exception.
Deputies said you've probably seen evidence of human trafficking when you were out, and didn't even know it. 

The Greenville County Sheriff's office will start a human trafficking campaign in February, one that doesn't just bring awareness, but real assistance. 

"We have a bad habit in South Carolina and law enforcement in general, of locking girls up for prostitution and just saying "Well, they're a prostitute,'" and we never seek below the surface to find out if they might be a victim of trafficking," Human trafficking investigator Jonathan Bastoni said. 

It's a human rights issue deputies said gets brushed aside too often. "We have an issue in Greenville County, we have an issue throughout the state," Martine Wilder with the Greenville County Sheriff's Office said. "Looking at the numbers when it comes to human trafficking victims in the cases from last year, we have a duty."

Human trafficking investigators said there are many cases within Greenville County, and it is an issue not solely belonging to one socioeconomic class. Deputies said they have found human trafficking in almost every Greenvillle County hotel and motel. "The demand for it comes mostly from middle class, someone college educated," Bastoni said. 

"How can we expect for these girls who are being exploited to go and reach out for help when they don't know where can be found?" Wilder said. 

Starting in February, Greenville County Sheriff's office wants to offer help to the victims staying behind closed doors. They are starting a year long campaign, reaching out to Upstate businesses and hotels to teach them how to spot the trafficking and what do from there. Posters, a copy of the state law and direct contacts on the force will be given out as well. The sheriff's office said businesses have a huge role to play when it comes to preventing human trafficking. 

"We'll have them posted in places like restrooms, sometimes for trafficking victims the only place that they're going to be able to get away might be the restroom," Bastoni said. "A place where they can see a number to text or call for help."
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