The Lowcountry Human Trafficking Task Force will host a community address on Wednesday Jan. 13 at Faith Walterboro. January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
The community address will be from 10 a.m. until noon in a large sanctuary at Faith Walterboro, 858 Bells Hwy., Walterboro. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. The program will start promptly at 10 a.m.
The event is open to the public, but registration is strongly encouraged, as seating is limited to allow for social distancing. Masks are required. To register, contact Sheila Roemeling at email@example.com or by calling (843) 338-8896.
State and local officials will provide updates, trends and a forecast in the fight against human trafficking. The chairman of the state task force and S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson is scheduled to speak.
Other presenters will include 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone; Capt. Shane Roberts and Sgt. Edward Marcurella of the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office; and Sheila Roemeling, executive director of Fresh Start Healing Heart.
Capt. Roberts has served as co-chairman of the task force while Sgt. Marcurella is incoming co-chairman. Duties as co-chairperson include coordinating with the 14th Judicial Circuit, assisting and getting them involved in investigating the crime of human trafficking in and around the 14th Circuit jurisdiction, as well as educating citizens, conducting seminars, and getting community members involved in the cause.
The state Human Trafficking Task Force reported a 360-percent increase in the number of trafficking victims recorded in South Carolina, as well as an increase in the number of human-trafficking cases reported in the state.
Human-trafficking is the action or practice of illegally transporting people from one country or area to another, typically for forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.
“One of our main priorities is educating citizens on the things to look for to identify if this activity is taking place. In return, this will lead to more people contacting law enforcement, due to knowing key identifiers associated with this crime, assisting law enforcement in putting an end to the human trafficking epidemic,” Marcurella said.
Indicators of human trafficking may include:
• Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations, or houses of worship?
• Has a child stopped attending school?
• Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior?
• Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
• Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
• Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
• Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive?
• Does the person show signs of being denied food, water, sleep or medical care?
• Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to control the situation, somewhere they go or who they talk to?
• Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
• Is the person living in unsuitable conditions?
• Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation?
• Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?
Someone who suspects human trafficking should call 911 and report it to law enforcement, with as much detailed information as possible, said Marcurella. Individuals can also reach out to the Non-Governmental Human Trafficking Confidential Help Line at 1-888-373-7888 or contact the Department of Homeland Security at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.
“Helping to ensure safety and bringing people justice has always been my passion. For the past 35 years, I have worked in numerous public safety roles. I spent 17 years as a firefighter; of those 17 years, I spent six as a firefighter/paramedic for Hilton Head Fire-Rescue. From there, I transitioned into law enforcement, where I’ve excelled and risen through various ranks over the past 18 years. In addition to my current role as a sergeant in our Criminal Investigations Division, I’m also an investigator for the Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force,” said Marcurella.
The Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, operating through the Attorney General’s Office, is a network of over 50 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies around South Carolina. The ICAC section handles cases involving crimes against children facilitated through the use of technology, including the possession and distribution of child pornography, and criminal solicitation of a minor.
“I’m honored to take on this new role, and am hoping my knowledge and dedicated years of experience will provide the task force with the justice it deserves,” Marcurella said.
To learn more, go to https://sclchttf.wixsite.com/website.