How You Can Help Prevent Human Trafficking in Montana
Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen is asking Montanans to learn the signs of human trafficking and report it if they see it. Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers, often organized criminal enterprises, profit at the expense of adults or children compelled to perform labor or engage in commercial sex.
Knudsen sent a warning to human traffickers and their patrons not to do business in Montana because he said they will be caught and held accountable for their criminal behavior.
“I am committed to doing everything I can as attorney general to end human trafficking in Montana. At the Department of Justice, we have strengthened the law and dedicated more resources to finding and holding traffickers and patrons accountable,” said Knudsen. “Law enforcement can’t be everywhere. I encourage every Montanan to learn the signs of human trafficking and if you see something, say something. Together, we will continue to send the message to criminals that Montana is a bad place to do business.”
Since 2021, reported human trafficking cases in Montana have more than doubled. In 2023, Department of Justice agents tracked 143 human trafficking cases in Montana. There were 106 cases in 2022 and 68 cases in 2021.
Here are some of the potential indicators of sex trafficking:
- Young person that is very hesitant to engage in conversation. Eyes are always downcast, avoiding eye contact, especially with men. Poor physical state…tired, malnourished, or shows signs of physical abuse or torture.
- Seems to have trouble responding to what their name is or what location (city or even state) they are in. (Victims’ names are often changed, as are their whereabouts. They typically do not stay in one location for long – at times for 24 hours or less).
- Wearing clothes that do not fit the climate or the situation such as short shorts or skirts, tank tops, and no jacket in the middle of winter.
- Lack of control over money, and personal possessions like bags, IDs, or documents. May also be carrying very few possessions in a plastic bag.
- May be accompanied by a dominating person, or someone they seem fearful of. That controlling person may also be someone who does not seem to “fit,” such as a much older individual, an individual of a different race, or behavior seemingly inappropriate with the suspected victim.
- Young girl or boy hanging around outside a convenience store, truck stop, casino, or other location. May be approaching different vehicles or men they do not seem to know.
What you should do if you believe you witnessed human trafficking:
- If the situation is an emergency, call 911.
- Do not intervene if you see suspected trafficker(s). Remain at a safe distance or in your vehicle.
- In non-emergency situations, call or text 1-833-406-STOP (1-833-406-7867) OR reach and advocate via live chat at 406stop.com.
- When possible, take images with your cellular device of the suspected trafficker(s), victim(s), and vehicle license plate(s).