Lexington, SC (WLTX) - Human Trafficking is a crime that many of us would like to think doesn't happen here in the Midlands but leaders say that's not the case and are making plans to combat it.
The Richland County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force partnered with Amber Alert and Lighthouse for Life to host a Combatting Human Trafficking Conference.
More than 100 social workers, foster care parents, healthcare professionals and law enforcement officials took part in the combatting human trafficking conference. The goal is for them to create a plan to help high-risk victims.
“We're kind of just scratching the surface on what's going on. We're just getting people to realize that you know it is happening, and it is child sex trafficking going on,” Lt. Maria Yturria with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department explained.
Yturria says education is key.
“Girls that are having difficulty at home and you know they're being groomed like hey you are special, you are important, you can do this, you can make it on your own but what they don't realize is they won't never see the money,” Yturria explained. “These pimps groom them and they make them believe they're doing it for love you know and it really is not.”
Jennifer Thompson is the Executive Director of Lighthouse for Life, which is a non-profit anti-human trafficking organization founded in 2014.
The group is working on building a safe house in Richland County for human trafficking survivors.
“I wish it was tomorrow,” Thompson said.
Thompson and Yturria say it’s going to take the entire community to combat this issue.
“Pimps and traffickers you know they’re all working together and their networks and so we have to catch up with them and we have to work together as a community to raise prevention in all the areas,” Thompson said.
The conference continues Tuesday.
Leaders tell us awareness and prevention are key to stopping this from happening and you can help fight sex trafficking by speaking up if you see something suspicious.
Just call CRIMESTOPPERS AT 1-888-CRIME-S-C or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center 1-888- 373-7888.
For more information, please visit: http://www.lighthouseforlife.org/human-trafficking