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Businesses in SC’s hospitality industry joining fight against human trafficking

-- One of South Carolina's largest industries is joining the fight against human trafficking in...
-- One of South Carolina's largest industries is joining the fight against human trafficking in the state, the hospitality industry.(Jason Raven)
Updated: Nov. 25, 2019 at 7:32 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - One of South Carolina’s largest industries are joining the fight against human trafficking in the state, the hospitality industry.

Last week, the South Carolina Attorney's General's Office announced a partnership between the South Carolina Human Trafficking Task Force and the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Attorney General Alan Wilson said, “This is an amazing way to multiply our impact on combating human trafficking in South Carolina.”

Bobby Williams is the CEO of Lizard's Thicket and the chairman of the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association. He said human trafficking is a problem in the Palmetto State. The South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association represents more than 2,000 members across the state.

"We want to be a part of the solution," Williams said.

Pretty soon staff at his restaurants will be undergoing some new training to help stop human trafficking.

"People need to realize it's happening right here, in your community. People see it on the news and think it's happening somewhere else. It's happening here," he said.

The goal of the new partnership is to train workers in the hospitality industry to recognize the signs of sex or labor human trafficking, ensure businesses have safe response protocols and to continue to raise awareness about this crime.

Attorney General Wilson said, "A lot of the illicit conduct in trafficking happens at hotels and motels. Traffickers and their victims have to eat. They go to restaurants like everyone else."

Staff at restaurants and hotels will also learn best practices when it comes to contacting law enforcement about potential cases of human trafficking Wilson said.

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotlines, 848 trafficking victims were identified last year through their hotline.

"It's a benefit to us because we are going to have people who are embedded in the trenches, the front lines. They're going to be able to educate law enforcement officers about what they're seeing," Attorney General Wilson said.

Williams said this partnership is going to help crack down on labor human trafficking as well. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there were 34 labor trafficking cases reported in the state in 2018.

"If we can eradicate it - that would be wonderful," Williams said.

In addition to the training, members of the association will be displaying posters in their bathrooms with crucial information human trafficking victims can use to get the help they need.

You can report cases to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888)-373-7888 or by texting 233733 or you can click here for more information.

Williams said some members could begin their training as soon as next week.

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