Lexington, SC (WLTX) - Two sixteen-year-old girls were rescued by the Town of Lexington Police after being discovered during a sex-traffic bust at a motel.
Officials say the sting took place at a local hotel on November 21, with officers from the Lexington County Multi-Agency Narcotics Enforcement Team task force posing as “Johns” answering ads online.
Officers say Twenty-Nine-year-old Donnell Woodard and Twenty-Three-year-old India Cuyler are being charged with Sex Trafficking of a Minor.
Lieutenant Carroll Bledsoe says the two were selling the girls through ads on Craigslist and Backpage.com.
"As the father of two daughters, it hits very close to home. These were two sixteen-year-old girls who were out and forced to do things that no teenager and no child should ever have to think about," explained Bledsoe.
The criminal investigations commander says training has made the department aware of the human trafficking issue.
"It was so eye-opening to me that it had to be happening everywhere. It wasn't just the big cities. It wasn't just the tourist destinations," said Bledsoe.
Jen Thompson with Lighthouse For Life, a human trafficking awareness group, helped the police department understand what's going on in the Midlands.
"I believe that every human being has dignity and value. If you went on backpage.com right now, you would find over fifty ads for people for sale for commercial sex in Columbia alone and the ads are posted there every single day," said Thompson.
This may be the first of many busts in Lexington County but Alexis Williams Scurry with the Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force in Richland County says sex trafficking of minors is happening right under our noses.
"A lot of people just assume that it's happening on illegal websites or Backpage, but it does happen on Craigslist. It could even happen on Facebook. You just have to look out for it," said Williams Scurry.
Williams Scurry says you supporting groups that help victims after they are rescued and being more aware of the issue can help put a stop to children being sold for sex.
"Make not only youth and parents aware, but make purchasers and traffickers aware that law enforcement is on top of their game," said Scurry.
Both Woodard and Cuyler are being held without bond at the Lexington County Detention Center.
Lexington Police says training has made them more aware of human trafficking and helped them rescue victims from the prostitution rings.