AG Knudsen and Governor Gianforte led roundtable on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day

To mark Human Trafficking Awareness Day, Attorney General Austin Knudsen and Governor Greg Gianforte have teamed up to lead a panel discussion on the state’s efforts to end human trafficking.

“In this Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we encourage the people of Montana to be part of the solution to ending human trafficking in Montana,” Governor Gianforte said. “Through an effort by all states among law enforcement agencies, nonprofits, schools, private businesses and all of us, we can reverse recent trends and protect vulnerable people and our people. communities against these heinous crimes. ”

“Human trafficking and sexual slavery is happening in Montana and we cannot ignore it. This is why the fight against trafficking in human beings is one of my main priorities as Attorney General, ”said Attorney General Knudsen. “It is important that we continue to bring together our network of law enforcement, local task forces, nonprofits and other agencies for discussions as we have done today to end. to the problem. I also urge every Montanais to join us in our fight to eliminate human trafficking – educate yourself about the problem, learn the signs and report suspected human traffickers.

The Governor and Attorney General were joined at the roundtable by representatives from the Criminal Investigations Division of the Montana Department of Justice, Montana Highway Patrol, Missoula County Sheriff’s Office, Police Department from Missoula County, LifeGuard Group and Community Working Groups.

With the increase in human trafficking cases in Montana, the roundtable focused on strategies to raise awareness of human trafficking, especially among Montana youth, and to hold criminals accountable.

Lowell Hochhalter, president and founder of the LifeGuard group in Missoula, has helped educate thousands of middle school and high school students about the dangers of human trafficking.

“These kids want to help each other,” Hochhalter said. “Let’s give them the tools, then give them permission to help.”

Since 2015, the Montana Department of Justice has tracked a 485% increase in human trafficking cases in Montana. Seven cases of human trafficking were recorded in 2015, compared to 41 cases in 2021.

“Shortly after my appointment, the Attorney General made it clear that it was a priority that we train every soldier on the road to identify human trafficking activity,” Col. Steve Lavin said during the discussion. . “Montana is a big state, we have soldiers all over the state and they make a lot of contact with people. This is an important problem, and we aim to solve it.

Earlier in January, the governor proclaimed Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Throughout January, the Governor and Attorney General are encouraging Montanais to join the fight to end human trafficking by learning the potential signs and committing to report any suspicious activity to law enforcement. order.

The Montana Department of Justice provides the following potential indicators of human trafficking activity:

  • Be hesitant to initiate a conversation. Eyes can be downcast and victims can avoid eye contact.
  • Poor physical condition – tired, malnourished or showing signs of physical abuse or torture.
  • Difficulty responding to their name or where they are. The whereabouts and names of victims change frequently.
  • Wear clothes that do not correspond to the climate or the situation in which they find themselves.
  • Lack of control over money and personal property. Can also carry very little goods in a plastic bag.
  • Accompanied by a dominant person or someone they seem to be afraid of. The controlling person can be someone who doesn’t seem to match, such as a much older person or someone with seemingly inappropriate behavior with the alleged victim.
  • A young girl or boy hanging out in front of a convenience store, truck stop, casino or other place. The person may approach different vehicles or people they do not seem to know.

If you suspect human trafficking, call 911 in an emergency. In non-emergency situations, dial 1-833-406-STOP (1-833-406-7867) or contact a lawyer via 406stop.com. If you see suspected traffickers, do not intervene and stay at a safe distance. Take pictures of the trafficker, the victim, and the vehicle’s license plate if possible.

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