Several officials gathered this week to reiterate the message that human trafficking will not be tolerated in Richland County.
During a news conference held Wednesday morning at the County Administration Building, Richland County Councilman Jim Manning, District 8, led a discussion about the multiple agencies that have been cohesively working to eradicate human trafficking in Richland County since the Richland County Anti-human Trafficking Task Force (RCAHT) was started two years ago.
Manning, joined by local and state officials, said the RCAHT is making strides in its mission to raise public awareness that human trafficking is victimizing Richland County youth, to provide help and resources to victims, and to assist law enforcement in the prosecution of criminals who take part in this form of modern-day slavery.
He presented a proclamation, along with newly elected Councilmembers Calvin “Chip” Jackson, District 9, and Yvonne McBride, District 3, stating Council’s initiatives to end human trafficking.
“This is an indication of our commitment to make a difference in our County,” Manning said.
Vicki Jackson, coordinator of the RCAHT, said human trafficking, whether sexual in nature or taking the form of forced labor, is a pervasive issue but is one that the dedicated individuals who comprise the task force won’t shy away from bringing to light. Capt. Heidi Jackson of the Victims Services division of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department echoed the importance the community plays in ending this devastating crime.
“Human trafficking is a law enforcement issue, but it’s also a community issue,” she said. “When we talk to victims … it’s like peeling back layers, and what’s at the center is often a young girl who was seeking love and attention, and this, unfortunately, was the only way she got it.”
Kathryn Moorehead, coordinator for the South Carolina Anti-human Trafficking Task Force, read aloud a proclamation from Gov. Nikki Haley that addresses statewide initiatives to combat human trafficking. Jennifer Thompson, direct of Lighthouse for Life, a local nonprofit that provides safe housing and resources for victims, thanked County officials and volunteers for their combined efforts to not only fight criminality but to support victim recovery services.
“Richland County sets a really good example for the rest of the state,” Thompson said.
Manning helped establish the RCAHT in January 2015, with the end goal that no person in Richland County become a victim of human trafficking.
January is recognized nationally as Human Trafficking Awareness Month.