AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Catching a child trafficker is one of the hardest crimes to investigate.
“These people are very, very smart. They’re very good at what they do,” said Terry Gore, Crimes Against Children investigator, Richmond Co. Sheriff’s Office.
And that is what makes catching a child sex trafficker so difficult. They want money and power. Terry Gore is the Crimes Against Children Investigator for the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office. The numbers are staggering. He handles 200 – 300 cases a year. Many are gang-related but sometimes the child can be betrayed by their own family.
“I’m working on a case right now where the individual was with the mother and they started grooming the mom. And eventually it was like ‘hey, give me pictures of your daughter. Give me pictures of your son.’ Things like that. And it just progresses,” said Gore.
Augusta District Attorney Jared Williams tells Barclay Bishop he sees a lot of the grooming process of family members, especially in Burke County where it’s more spread out.
“The biggest thing is, we had to specialize. If the traffickers and the gangs, and the people who exploit children are going to be organized in the way they go about things, we have to be better organized,” said Jared Williams, District Attorney, Augusta Judicial Circuit.
Recently, Williams created a major crimes division within his office.
“What we’re trying to do right now is shorten the amount of time it takes to get from arrest to resolution,” said Williams.
So who are these traffickers targeting? Nearly every week, our WJBF newsroom receives emails with pictures of runaways. Experts say, behind the face is often a trafficking victim, or someone about to become one.
“We do have kids in our community that are hurting. We have kids that need more invested in them. And that’s always going to be a problem if we are giving the exploiters that avenue to reach our kids,” said Williams.
That’s how many runaway calls Barclay discovered 5 local law enforcement agencies received in 2022 through August of 2023. So what does this look like in YOUR community? Barclay reached out to those 5 agencies and here’s what she learned:
- Richmond County ranks #1 with 707 calls
- Aiken County had 362 calls
- Columbia County ranks third with 109 calls
- North Augusta had 40 calls
- Burke County had 18 calls
“Most of them don’t think that they’re victims. Most of them think they’re in charge, that they’re running things, they’re in charge of their own bodies. That’s what they think,” said Gore.
The number of child trafficking victims in our community far outweighs the number of cases that actually make it to trial.
But still, a courtroom, is where a trafficking suspect will hopefully one day sit.
And you may be the one sitting in the jury box deciding their fate.
It’s why lour local law enforcement agencies are working so hard to get the message out that these predators are out there, and our children are their targets.
“It’s right here. It’s in Augusta. When this does go to trial, our jury’s don’t want to believe that these evil people belong, they’re right there. Downtown, out in Hephzibah. They don’t want to believe that they’re right here. So if our jury doesn’t believe it, these people get acquitted,” said Gore.
In the meantime these agencies will keep fighting to bring these traffickers to justice.
TUNE IN NEXT WEEK (October 3rd): Barclay Bishop will talk with leaders in several local school systems about what’s being done to identify students who may be trafficking victims.
IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS IN IMMEDIATE DANGER, CALL 911
If you’re a human trafficking victim or have information about a potential trafficking situation:
NHTRC is a national, toll-free hotline, with specialists available to answer calls from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, seven days a week
Submit a tip online: https://humantraffickinghotline.org/en/report-trafficking
To report trafficking in Georgia
*Press Option #1 to report a tip to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI)
*Press Option #2 to report a child sex trafficking case directly
*Press Option #3 if you’re an adult requesting assistance from a trafficking situation
South Carolina 2022 Annual Report: Human Trafficking Task Force