Gianforte Strengthens Law For Human Traffickers
Joined by Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, Rep. Jodee Etchart and law enforcement and nonprofit leaders, Gov. Greg Gianforte has strengthened Montana law to bring human traffickers to justice.
“Human traffickers are despicable, ruthlessly preying on people and committing heartbreaking crime,” Gianforte said. “With this legislation, we’re sending a loud and clear message to human traffickers — if you commit these crimes in Montana, you will be brought to justice to the fullest extent of the law.”
Sponsored by Etchart, R-Billings, at the request of the Montana Department of Justice, HB 112 increases penalties for human trafficking and provides prosecutors more tools to bring traffickers to justice.
Since 2015, the Montana Department of Justice has tracked an 871 percent increase in human trafficking cases in Montana. In 2015, there are seven recorded human trafficking cases compared to 68 cases in 2021.
“Montana is now one of the first states to take a harder stance to combat and deter those that are driving the sex industry by targeting the buyers. We’re sending a message that human trafficking has no place in our communities,” Knudsen said.
Etchart added, “Protecting our children is a top priority, and protecting other vulnerable individuals. Human trafficking is on the rise in Montana, and we’re going to do everything we can to work together to stop this horrible crime.”
To crack down on criminals, including human traffickers, the governor worked with the attorney general to propose five new highway patrol troopers, four new human trafficking agents, three new major case investigators, three new narcotics agents, and seven attorneys, including prosecutors, at the Montana Department of Justice in his Budget for Montana Families.
The Montana Department of Justice provides the following potential indicators of human trafficking activity:
•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.