Simpsonville, S.C. - In an effort to highlight the dangerous reality of human trafficking in the Upstate, officials from the Simpsonville Police Department, nonprofit SWITCH, and Holiday Inn Express & Suites held a workshop in Simpsonville Wednesday on the signs of human trafficking.
Holiday Inn Express & Suites general manager Polly Foster hosted Simpsonville victims advocate Milena Banquez, Lt. Timmie Williams, and SWITCH clincial director Erin Kornahrens at a workshop for hotel staff.
After staff watched a video titled "Your Role in Preventing Human Trafficking," Kornahrens spoke about SWITCH and signs that human trafficking may be occurring in a hotel.
"SWITCH exists to end human trafficking and sexual exploitation in the Upstate," Kornahrens said. "We are hoping to shine a light on this horrible problem."
SWITCH has five programs for survivors of human trafficking and community education: Awareness, Prevention, Demand, Intervention, and Restoration.
The programs serve all 10 counties in the Upstate.
Kornahrens said SWITCH has helped more than 274 women since 2012 and currently assists 23 women.
Banquez said a collaboration among businesses, nonprofits and law enforcement is essential to end human trafficking, which is now the fastest growing crime globally.
"While our hotels are important contributors to the local economy, unfortunately criminals will utilize the anonymity, privacy and isolation of hotel rooms to carry out human trafficking operations," Banquez said. "Holiday Inn Express & Suites should be commended for its efforts to educate staff on identifying and preventing human trafficking by alerting law enforcement."
Reports of human trafficking in South Carolina increased 360 percent between 2018 and 2019, according to the S.C. Attorney General's Office.