Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Law enforcement agencies across South Carolina say the days of stop light street corners are gone, and that the child sex trafficking industry has grown online.
"Human trafficking is alive and well," said South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson. "Modern day slavery exists in South Carolina. There are people right now who are being trafficked like a commodity and are being sold like cattle."
Pimps have been arrested at Midlands hotels in two recent cases for using online ads to traffick underage girls.
"Anyone can go to a website now and click and they can see pictures and there's services being offered," said Special Agent David Thomas "Then trying to figure out who those people are and tracking things down, it's not as simple as it used to be."
Thomas is the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's field office in Columbia. He says now, agents often have to run undercover operations to find human traffickers and that when they do, many times they find children are involved.
"If we find adult prostitutes there, we're going to ask if they know any children that are involved in this," Thomas said. "Historically, if there are, they'll tell you because they don't want to see kids exploited and doing that same thing they're doing."
In one of those cases, undercover agents used a Craigslist like website to arrange a meeting with a prostitute. When they arrived at the hotel room on Two Notch Road, they learned the girl was underage.
Months later, Richland County deputies used the same website to arrange a meeting at a different hotel on Two Notch Road. When they arrived, there was a 15 year old girl inside.
"What makes it one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises in the world is: a drug trafficker gives you a drug and you give that trafficker money and then the drug trafficker has to find another drug to sell," Wilson said. "A human trafficker gives you a human, you give money, and they get the human back."
Wilson has pulled together a human trafficking task force to help combat the problem in South Carolina. He says they've brought in the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation to strip a license from a business suspected of housing a trafficking ring.
"We've brought in civic groups. We've brought in non governmental groups. We've brought in members of the federal governments," Wilson said. "We're going to be developing techniques and tactics and procedures in a holistic way that's going to tackle not just the symptoms of the crime but the root cause of the crime."