MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – Horry County is the state’s top county for human trafficking report for the third year in a row, but some county leaders say that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“For me personally, and for our task force, we take that as a really good number,” Capt. Sherri Smith of the Horry County Sheriff’s Office said. “Our citizens are doing what we asking them to do. If they see something, they’re saying something.”

Smith chairs the Coastal Regional Human Trafficking Task Force and says local authorities have worked hard in recent years to raise awareness.

“We’ve gone and talked to different churches, different youth groups, we’ve been to a local high school,” she said.

They’ve also gone to hotels to raise awareness.

Increasing education is one of the goals for the state attorney general’s office this year in its latest report. The new report said there were 121 cases of human trafficking cases reported across South Carolina in 2021. That’s down from 139 the prior year. However, the number of victims reported increased by 15%.

“You can’t really have a true discussion about avoidance of human trafficking without educating on the dangers of drug abuse,” 15th Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said. “Because that is what keeps the vast majority of victims ensnared.”

Richardson said federal help is critical when prosecuting these cases because federal authorities aren’t limited to jurisdictional boundaries that such crimes often cross.

“What we have to do is gather information, knowing that it doesn’t start and stop in Myrtle Beach,” he said. “And then we add that information until we’ve got a case.”

Smith said she thinks human trafficking is a growing issue and that additional time kids spend online puts many at a higher risk.