State, local officials meet in Missoula to discuss human trafficking response

Zoe Buchli

Montana politicians, law enforcement officials and community specialists gathered Tuesday morning in Missoula to discuss the state’s response to increased human trafficking rates and pay homage to National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

“Globally in Montana everyone likes to think human trafficking and sex slavery don’t happen in Montana because that’s a big city problem,” Attorney General Austin Knudsen said. “That’s just sadly not the case.”

In the last year, the state’s Division of Criminal Investigations department has seen a 65% uptick in human trafficking investigations — 41 were investigated in 2020, with a jump to 68 in 2021. This does not include what’s going on at local levels, Knudsen said.

“Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act,” according to the Department of Homeland Security. A commercial sex act is the giving or receiving of anything of value (money, drugs, shelter, food, clothes, rent payment, etc.) to a person in exchange for a sex act, the Montana Department of Justice website says.

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