November 27th, 2019
Helena, MT (STL.News) A national non-profit has again ranked Montana as one of the top states in the country for its efforts to combat child sex trafficking.
Shared Hope International’s annual state report cards gave Montana an “A,” citing its continued commitment to laws and practices that vigorously protect child sex trafficking victims and hold buyers, sellers, and facilitators accountable. Additionally, Montana had the second-highest score in the nation. Montana has remained at an “A” since 2015, thanks in large measure to legislation drafted by and introduced at the request of Attorney General Tim Fox during the 2015 legislative session. The bill updated Montana’s human trafficking laws to reflect the model state human trafficking act. Prior to the changes pushed by Fox, Shared Hope International gave Montana an “F.”
“I have made it a priority ever since taking office several years ago to pass new laws that hold buyers and traffickers accountable and increase protections for survivors of child sex trafficking,” Attorney General Tim Fox said. “And now, for the first time, Montana has state-level law enforcement dedicated exclusively to working human trafficking cases, thanks to the two full-time investigators we hired this fall. I’m incredibly pleased and grateful Shared Hope International has again taken note of our ongoing efforts to fight modern-day slavery in Montana,” Fox added.
“Montana is a shining example of why Shared Hope issues the Protected Innocence Challenge Report year after year,” said Linda Smith, president and founder of Shared Hope International. “Since we started this initiative in 2011, Montana raised its grade from an ‘F’ to an ‘A’ and is only one of six states to jump four grades. The state’s steady drumbeat of action continued in this last legislative session with the enactment of a bill that provides specialized services for child sex trafficking victims, an area where many states are lagging behind and the national average grade is barely a ‘C’ at 71.2 percent.”
The Montana Department of Justice (DOJ) human trafficking team, based in Billings, is employed by DOJ’s Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) and works on cases of suspected human trafficking. The two new agents work with local, Tribal, and federal law enforcement to conduct undercover operations to crack down on human trafficking throughout Montana. Additionally, the human trafficking team coordinates closely with the Montana Highway Patrol to interdict traffickers along Montana’s roadways before they cross state lines.
Fox went on to thank Truckers Against Trafficking, Street Grace, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Motor Carriers Association, the Town Pump Foundation, Freedom 58 Project, and Soroptimists International of Helena and Whitefish for their assistance in public outreach on human trafficking awareness over the years.
More information on human trafficking 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, the Polaris Project National Hotline at 1-888-3737-888, or text BeFree (233733). To request a human trafficking awareness presentation for your organization, contact DOJ’s Special Services Bureau at (406) 444-1476.