A national non-profit has again ranked Montana as one of the top states in the country for its efforts to prevent child sex trafficking.
The Montana Department of Justice said in a press release that Shared Hope International recently released its annual state report cards, and graded Montana at an “A,” citing its continued commitment to laws that vigorously protect child sex trafficking victims and hold buyers, sellers, and facilitators accountable.
Only two states, Montana and Kansas, raised their grades four levels from 2011 to 2018. Montana has remained at an “A” since 2015, thanks in large part to House Bill 89 , which was drafted by and introduced at the request of Attorney General Tim Fox during the 2015 legislative session. The bill was signed into law on July 1, 2015 and updated Montana’s human trafficking laws to reflect the model state human trafficking act.
“The Montana Department of Justice is pleased Shared Hope International has again taken note of our ongoing legislative advocacy and outreach efforts to fight modern-day slavery,” Attorney General Tim Fox said. “I have made it a priority ever since I took office to bring perpetrators to justice while taking a victim-centered approach to helping young people whose lives have been shattered by these heinous crimes. I’m proud Montana’s laws have the necessary definitions and penalties to prosecute traffickers and help their victims recover,” Attorney General Fox added.
“Since Shared Hope International began grading the states eight years ago, Montana has worked incredibly hard to pass strong laws to fight child sex trafficking,” said Linda Smith, President and Founder of Shared Hope International. “Montana is one of only two states to raise their grade from an F in 2011 to an A in 2018. Montana has accomplished this impressive success by continuing to make anti-trafficking legislation a priority, including a major effort that began in 2013 under the leadership of Attorney General Tim Fox, to pass new laws that hold buyers and traffickers accountable, and most notably, increase protections for survivors of child sex trafficking.”
This year, the Montana Department of Justice continued to forge new partnerships to raise awareness about human trafficking and educate the public and law enforcement on how to detect and prevent human trafficking. A public service announcement campaign aired on TV statewide, and training for transportation industry representatives, convenience store managers, and law enforcement was held this summer.
This fall, the Montana Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) assumed leadership of the Internet Crimes Against Children program after being awarded the federal grant for Montana. DCI now plays a leadership role in protecting at-risk children from online predators and prosecuting them. DCI partners with 15 affiliate agencies around the state, processing nearly 400 Montana-specific cyber tips and leads annually. This usually results in human trafficking investigations, since many offenders are online, seeking or posting sexual services which often involve underage victims.
Attorney General Fox thanked Truckers Against Trafficking, Street Grace, the Montana Broadcasters Association, Watkins Shepard Trucking, 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).