Attorney General Knudsen, Gov. Gianforte encourage Montanans to join fight to eliminate human trafficking
Attorney General Austin Knudsen joined Governor Greg Gianforte today in declaring January Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in Montana and encouraging Montanans to be part of the solution to end human trafficking. The Attorney General and Governor were joined by Montana Highway Patrol Colonel Steve Lavin and representatives from the HER Campaign and The LifeGuard Group – two non-profit organizations combatting human trafficking in Montana.
Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery whereby traffickers, which are often organized criminal enterprises, profit at the expense of adults or children by compelling them to perform labor or engage in commercial sex. It has been on the rise in Montana in recent years. The number of cases tracked by the Montana Department of Justice has increased by 485 percent since 2015. It is also estimated that human trafficking generates $150 billion worldwide per year.
Attorney General Knudsen will continue to raise awareness of human trafficking during January by visiting communities across the state to address the issue with local law enforcement and encourage prevention efforts.
“Human trafficking and sexual slavery are happening in Montana and we can’t ignore it. That’s why fighting human trafficking is one of my top priorities as Attorney General,” Attorney General Knudsen said. “These are not victimless crimes and ignoring the problem will not make them go away. I urge every Montanan to join us in our fight to eliminate human trafficking – educate yourself about the problem, learn the signs, and report suspected human traffickers.”
“It was a pleasure to join the Governor and the Attorney General at the State Capitol as they signed the proclamation against human trafficking in Montana. I’m thankful that we have leaders in our state who are working with non-profits, like the HER Campaign, and task forces to combat this problem and end human trafficking,” Sammy Higgs, co-founder of the HER Campaign, said.
“It was great to join the Governor and the Attorney General this morning to shine a light on human trafficking. It’s so valuable to have our elected officials come along side us and other non-profits and task forces here in Montana,” Lowell Hochhalter, founder and executive director of The LifeGuard Group, said. “It’s also important that the community comes together to help us fight this. It will take all of us working together to bring human trafficking to an end.”
To do your part in eliminating human trafficking, know the signs. Potential indicators of human trafficking include:
- Being hesitant to engage in conversation. Eyes may be downcast, and victims may avoid eye contact.
- A poor physical state – tired, malnourished, or show signs of physical abuse or torture.
- Trouble responding to what their name is or where they are. Victims’ whereabouts and names change frequently.
- Wearing clothes that do not fit the climate or situation they are in.
- Lack of control over money and personal possessions. May also carry very few possessions in a plastic bag.
- Accompanied by a dominating person or someone they seem fearful of. The controlling person may be someone who does not seem to “fit” such as a much older individual or an individual with behavior seemingly inappropriate with the suspected victim.
- A young girl or boy hanging around outside a convenience store, truck stop, casino, or other location. The individual may be approaching different vehicles or people they do not seem to know.
If you suspect human trafficking, call 911 in an emergency. In non-emergency situations call 1-833-406-STOP (1-833-406-7867) or reach an advocate via 406stop.com. If you see suspected traffickers, do not intervene, and remain at a safe distance. Take pictures of the trafficker, victim, and vehicle license plate if possible.
Attorney General Knudsen is committed to eliminating human trafficking and helping survivors by working with local law enforcement agencies and non-profit organizations. During his first year in office, Attorney General Knudsen implemented several efforts to eliminate human trafficking which include:
- Provided human trafficking awareness training for county attorneys to help them recognize trafficking cases that come across their desk.
- Expanded human trafficking training at the Montana Law Enforcement Academy so that all local, state, and tribal law enforcement officers entering the field can spot human trafficking.
- Required human trafficking training for all uniformed Montana Highway Patrol troopers to give them the tools to spot human trafficking in the field.
- Brought together anti-human trafficking organizations and regional task forces to improve resource coordination, identify gaps in services, and explore policy ideas that can be implemented by the legislature and state agencies to fight trafficking.