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Montana honored for efforts to stop child sex trafficking

Posted at 9:13 PM, Dec 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-17 23:35:05-05

HELENA – For the third consecutive year, Montana has received an ‘A’ rating from Shared Hope International for the state’s child sex trafficking prevention efforts.

Shared Hope International, a national nonprofit, recently released its annual state report cards that looked at policies and work being done to prevent trafficking and help victims.

“The unfortunate thing is that here is Montana we are not immune to human trafficking. It’s one of the most lucrative criminal activities in the world and it happens here,” said Montana Attorney General Tim Fox. “When I became attorney general in 2013 I made it a point and a priority to work on trying to stop human trafficking in Montana and also have a victims-centered approach.”

Montana scored a 92 this year with the report commending the state’s anti-trafficking legislation that hold buyers and traffickers accountable and for increased protections for survivors of child sex trafficking.

One area of improvement noted in the report is that no laws exist in Montana to address sexual tourism.

A large part of Montana’s ‘A’ grade is due to the 2015 State Legislature passing House Bill 89 which Gov. Steve Bullock signed into law in 2015.

The bill was drafted at the request of Fox’s office to update Montana’s human trafficking laws to model the state human trafficking act and it received largely bipartisan support.

“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.

According to Smith, Montana is one of only two states to raise its grade from an ‘F’ in 2011 to an ‘A’ in 2018.

Fox believes this recognition really goes to all Montanans who have stepped up to report and fight human trafficking in the state.

“This is because of the work of a lot of people,” said Fox. “We use a lot of public-private partnerships here at the Department of Justice and we’ve been able to do a lot of work in this area at no cost to the taxpayers.”

Fox went on to say, “ We live in a state with a relative small amount of crime when compared to others but even one sex trafficking or labor trafficking is too many.”

The Montana Department of Justice continued to combat trafficking this year by raising more awareness, educating the public and teaching law enforcement on how to detect and prevent human trafficking.

More information on human trafficking is available through the Attorney General’s Office website.

Story by John Riley, MTN News