AG Fox Announces Increases in Human Trafficking Victims Rescued in Montana

Attorney General Tim Fox announced today that while the number of known human trafficking cases in Montana increased between 2015 and 2016, so did the number of child and adult victims rescued during that same timeframe.

The Montana Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) compiled 2015 and 2016 human trafficking statistics for the state* by merging DCI and known federal prosecution cases through the US Attorney’s Office.  Of note:

•        Montana experienced a 100% increase in human trafficking cases between 2015 and 2016.
•        The number of adult victims rescued in Montana between 2015 and 2016 increased by 83%.
•        The number of juvenile victims rescued in Montana between 2015 and 2016 increased by 400%.

“Our ongoing legislative advocacy and outreach efforts over the last four years to fight modern-day slavery have resulted in greater public awareness, increased detection by our law enforcement partners, and justice for more of its victims,” Attorney General Tim Fox said.  “Unfortunately, it’s possible that human trafficking investigations would cease if the proposed 5% budget reduction impacts our Division of Criminal Investigation.  Human trafficking investigations tend to be complex and expensive operations, but we can’t put a price on the safety of Montana’s children.  While we’re much further along than we were, there’s still more to be done,” Attorney General Fox added.

Bryan Lockerby, administrator of DOJ’s Division of Criminal Investigation emphasized that the concept of human trafficking investigations has evolved primarily due to the increased attention and training that’s available for law enforcement.  Lockerby said, “Similar to peeling back the layers of an onion, we’re getting better at these cases and figuring out appropriate responses.  Although the large scale human trafficking ‘sweeps’ don’t work in our state, the quick response to tips and immediate follow up to individual cases has proven much more successful and resulted in an increase in arrests and identification of victims.”

Human trafficking awareness and prevention have been key initiatives of the Montana Department of Justice since Attorney General Fox took office four years ago.  Montana’s laws now have the clear definitions and penalties needed to protect children and help sex trafficking victims on the road to recovery.

In 2015,  Shared Hope International ranked Montana as one of the top three states in the country for its efforts to prevent child sex trafficking, citing Montana’s successful commitment to advancing legislation that same year to ensure that children are not for sale within its borders.  During the 2015 legislative session, House Bill 89 was drafted by and introduced at the request of Attorney General Tim Fox, and was sponsored by Rep. Kim Dudik (D) of Missoula.  Effective July 1, 2015, this important legislation updated Montana’s human trafficking laws to reflect the model state human trafficking act.

More information on human trafficking, as well as a printable awareness poster, is available on the Attorney General’s Office website at www.dojmt.gov/stopht.   To report suspected human trafficking cases or to request help, call local law enforcement or 1-888-3737-888 or text BeFree (233733).

*2016 convictions will be adjudicated in 2017.