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Knudsen, Partners Continue Efforts To End Human Trafficking In State

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen hosted law enforcement and government officials, criminal prosecutors and leaders from advocacy groups and private industry in Helena last week for the Montana Department of Justice’s third human trafficking symposium. The meeting builds on Knudsen’s previous two symposiums and his commitment to a comprehensive response to human trafficking in the state.

The discussions centered around three topics: social and community services, law enforcement and prosecution and legislation. Attendees heard from Knudsen and others leading the fight in Montana and discussed ways to work together to improve services for survivors and bring those who exploited them to justice.

“To eliminate human trafficking – which is really modern- day slavery – we must continue to work together,” Knudsen said. “The Montana Department of Justice is committed to stopping human trafficking in our state, but we can’t do it all. Other law enforcement agencies, advocacy groups, private industry, and private citizens play a critical role as we crackdown on traffickers and help survivors.”

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 is estimated that human trafficking generates $150 billion worldwide per year. Montana Department of Justice human trafficking investigators initiated 64 cases in fiscal year 2022, an increase of 300 percent from 16 in the previous fiscal year.

Knudsen has increased human trafficking training for county attorneys, Montana Highway Patrol Troopers, and law enforcement cadets at the Montana Law Enforcement Academy. Last year, he helped launch the Sentinel Project, a private-public partnership between the Montana Department of Justice, Montana Beer and Wine Distributors Association, and the Missoula-based Lifeguard Group to increase human trafficking training and public education in the state.

Potential indicators of sex trafficking may include: 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, 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 with 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.

If you believe you witness 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 1-833-406STOP (1-833-406-7867) OR reach and advocate via live chat at

When possible, take images with your cellular device of the suspected trafficker(s), victim(s), and vehicle license plate(s).

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