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Child Abduction and Trafficking :: Should I Be Afraid in Columbia?

Child Abduction and Trafficking :: Should I Be Afraid in Columbia? | Columbia SC Moms BlogI try every day to not watch the news. If you want a surefire way to immediately become depressed, be my guest. However, it inevitably happens. I watch the news and of course catch it at the worst time. Recently I found out there were a rash of attempted child abductions in our area. Then, what seemed like the same week, there was a human trafficking ring bust. While it may not have been in our area, it was in our state. What worse news can a mother hear? 

I go out in public and am always on the defensive. Checking out the people around me, making sure they aren’t about to attempt anything. Why is this becoming my new norm? I should not have to worry every time I go out. So, I decided to be proactive about this situation and seek out expert opinions on the subject. I want to know if this is really an issue for our area? What can I do to ensure it won’t happen to me?

What Do We Know About Trafficking?

I have so many great resources at my fingertips to answer this question. First, I turned to my friend who has been on the frontlines of the national human trafficking war. She stated that human trafficking can take on many forms. It can be for labor or sex.

The trafficking world is not necessarily what we think. Many times the victim leaves home on their own hoping for a “better life.” Typically you find they are teenage girls who want to get away. They are “seduced” by an older man who gives them gifts and makes many promises. The victim is not typically abducted like you see in the movies, then forced into something. Human trafficking is something that is planned and involves much manipulation. 

What About Locally?

While I had all of these resources to learn more about this issue nationally, I needed to know if our area is a hot bed for these crimes. Like I said, our local news is where I was getting my information. Could it be that our area has a higher than average incidence of abductions and trafficking? Watching the news certainly made me think we were dealing with a war!

I reached out to the Community Services Division of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department. I asked quite simply, should I be afraid as a mother of two going out?

The short answer is no, we are not a “hot” area. There has not been a recent uptick in abductions. What we are seeing is media coverage on an isolated incident. It is not normal in our area to see random abductions. It is actually incredibly rare. This made me think back to all of the recent Amber Alerts. Captain Polis of the RCSD confirmed most of the time it is a relative or someone close to the child — parental abductions being the most frequent. 

What about the recent human trafficking bust? Well, that is also incredibly rare in this area. Like my friend, RCSD went over the fact that most of the time they cases they encounter involve teenage females leaving their home. These girls are promised love, attention, and gifts – similar to how gangs lure in their members. 

What Can I Do?

So now I know I don’t have to be afraid every time I go out in public. I need to just be a mom. A person who does still keep her children by her side, because things can still happen. Not only because our world is everchanging, but also because my 5-year-old likes to run away from me. I am more confident now in our community. But I also have two young boys, not female teenagers.

What if you have a teenage daughter though? What can you do to prevent something from happening? The RCSD has some very easy suggestions.

  • Keep all computers and tablets in an open, shared area.
  • Monitor your child’s internet use. You have the right as the parent. Ensuring their safety is so much more important than the fight that is going to ensue over “personal space.”
  • Have an open dialogue with your child. Talk to them about their day. Ask specifics, not just “How was your day?” 

The Richland County Sherriff’s Department has many resources to learn more. Please visit their site to learn how you can have a deeper discussion with a Crime Prevention Education Officer!

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