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Published On: Tue, May 23rd, 2017

New reports reveals human trafficking problem in Billings Montana

In a new article published on Billings Gazette, the law enforcement and FBI efforts in Montana have resulted in spotlighting the growing and serious problem in Montana communities: human trafficking.

Linking human trafficking to the rings of ” youth and adults are forced to work or to engage in prostitution in exchange for food, drugs or shelter…”

Tumbleweed, a nonprofit organization in Billings that serves at-risk youth, has identified 70 victims of human trafficking in the past 18 months, said Georgia Cady, Tumbleweed’s human trafficking program director.

Photo/Sawso.org

Ninety percent of those victims are from Billings or the local area, Cady said.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox said fighting human trafficking is a Department of Justice priority, where the goal is to bring traffickers to justice and help victims recover.
The article goes deeper into the three-day conference at Montana State University Billings to raise awareness about the issue. Fox and Cady were among numerous speakers Monday at the start event.

More than 200 people are expected to attend the public conference and more than 100 federal, state and local law enforcement officers are registered for the law enforcement portion, said Stephanie Baucus, a co-chair with the Yellowstone County Area Human Trafficking Task Force, which is hosting the event.

Conference presenters will discuss the trafficking problem, highlight efforts to combat traffickers and identify resources available to help and protect children and adults from traffickers.

The 2015 Legislature also passed a law establishing definitions and penalties for human trafficking, protections for victims and new programs for DOJ to raise awareness, Fox said.

Human trafficking now is part of basic law enforcement officer training at the Montana Law Enforcement Academy, Fox said.

“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished,” but more needs to be done in seeking justice for the victims of human trafficking, Fox said.

Billings Police Chief Rich St. John called human trafficking “very prolific” and said law enforcement plays a critical role in which officers use education and training to know what to look for and how to respond.

“There are definitive red flags,” St. John said.

Calling human trafficking “modern day slavery,” St. John said the thinking about such activity is changing.

“No longer are we arresting prostitutes,” he said.

Rather, law enforcement is trying to build a sense of trust with victims, to follow through on simple gestures and to create a sense of security for the victims, St. John said.

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About the Author

- Catherine "Kaye" Wonderhouse, a proud descendant of the Wunderhaus family is the Colorado Correspondent who will add more coverage, interviews and reports from this midwest area.

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