CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – The Tri-County Human Trafficking Task Force held its third public meeting of the year at the Charleston County Government Building, where they provided updates on their fight against human trafficking.

Local officials are working to combat human trafficking throughout the Lowcountry.

“We are a regional task force that is over Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties,” Lauren Knapp, co-chair for the task force, said. “So, to put that in perspective, that’s a lot of service providers, a lot of hospitals, a lot of first responders, it’s a lot of legal. It’s a lot.”

The task force was started through the attorney general’s office nearly four years ago, and its goal is to create a lot of change in the Palmetto State.

“We have three basic, or three main pieces of legislation that we’re working on. One of the top ones is solicitation and prostitution. We have the second or third lowest penalty for solicitation and prostitution in the nation,” task force co-chair Brook Burris said.

The group is made up of nine subcommittees that focus on different aspects of human trafficking.

“We are modeling for the whole state of what the task force should be,” South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) special agent for human trafficking Logan Fey said. “Everybody’s looking at us and what we’ve put together here and they’re trying to establish that in their own regions.”

One of those subcommittees is research and data.

“Between 2016 and present, there have been 25 individual cases of human trafficking, comprised of 12 suspects and 25 victims,” Dr. Leslie Hill from the research and data subcommittee said.

They recently launched a screening tool meant to help identify victims.

“To help us estimate the prevalence of human trafficking in our area,” Dr. M. Kristen Hefner from the research and data subcommittee said. “But more importantly, to provide services and resources to survivors and help them exit and get out of these exploitive situations.”

Although the tool is new, they say it has shown promise in assisting them in their fight against human trafficking.

“So far we have identified 8 victims of human trafficking through the interviews,” Hill said.

The Tri-County Human Trafficking Task Force’s next public meeting will be Friday, October 28.