Governor Greg Gianforte and Attorney General Austin Knudsen hosted a press conference at the Montana State Crime Lab in Missoula to draw attention to the topic of slavery and human trafficking in Montana.
Surrounded by sheriff’s law enforcement and police departments,
Governor Gianforte opened the meeting with this statement.
“Human trafficking occurs in all of our communities across the state and we need to come together to work on it,” Governor Gianforte said. “It’s in our urban communities, it’s in our rural communities, it’s in our tribal communities, and really no community is beyond the reach of these crimes. In our tribal communities, human trafficking also contributes to the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous peoples. It is a surprisingly tragic reality, but it is a reality that you all face on a daily basis. “
On Tuesday’s Talk Back, Attorney General Knudsen appeared with Hochhalter and Col. Steve Lavin, Commander of the Montana Highway Patrol.
Knudsen gave Hochhalter credit for drawing his attention directly to the subject of human trafficking.
“Lowell was one of the first guys who really caught me about a year and a half ago during my campaign,” Knudsen said. “He hit me in the head with a two par four and told me how much of a problem it was in Montana, because I really had no idea. But it’s just a huge, huge problem, Peter, his human trafficking. It is sexual slavery. It is modern day slavery. People here in Montana really don’t really understand, I think how much of a problem that is. We would like to think it’s Montana and it doesn’t exist here and it’s a big city problem. But I’m here to tell you that it’s absolutely a problem. Lowell can speak about it much more eloquently than I can. But yeah, that’s why we’re here this morning.
During the press conference, Hochhalter recounted an experience that clarified the need for speed and urgency in responding to human trafficking incidents. He referred to an incident that occurred in Wye that was called by the Montana Human Trafficking Hotline.
“I have two 13-year-olds who offer me sex,” Hochhalter said. “Can someone come out and help.” Two of our MPs responded, and by the time they got there they were gone. It was Thursday. The following Tuesday I was in the sheriff’s office and the captain of detectives walked up to me and said, ‘Hey, you’re going to want to watch out for that. It just fell on the national hotline. Apparently there are two girls at Wye knocking on the truckers’ doors. It was the same incident that happened a few days earlier. I mean, if we were late then we were still late five days later.
In other words, it took five days for the message to reach the national hotline from Missoula.
Governor Gianforte closed the meeting by thanking all participants and emphasizing action to resolve the issue of human trafficking.
“First I want to thank you for the work you all do,” said Gianforte. “I take two messages from it. One is awareness, whether it’s the number (hotline) promoted in restrooms across the state or on delivery trucks, and the other is that we need to have the resources to be aggressive on the law enforcement side, to make it a hostile environment for these criminals here in Montana.
The Montana Human Trafficking Hotline is 833-406-STOP.
Learn more about the Group of lifeguards here.
LOOKING BACK: Pictures of Missoula and how it has changed
Check out these photos of how Missoula has changed over the past decade.
WATCH: Photos from Montana’s own Earthship
A new Airbnb in Big Sky, MT gives you the chance to have a totally off-grid experience.