Missoula-area Organizations Combat Sex Trafficking
Community leaders, law enforcement and concerned citizens met at the University of Montana on Thursday to discuss ways to recognize and stop human trafficking.
The one-day workshop was a follow-up to the April Mansfield Center global conference on human trafficking, and was meant to address Missoula-specific issues with sex trafficking.
Detective Guy Baker with the Montana Regional Violence Crime Task Force says in Missoula, human trafficking usually occurs in the form of prostitution.
"The majority is online, there's a variety of websites in which they post advertisements and the clients know where to go to find the girls and the pimps," he explained.
Baker said these crimes are taking place out of sight, and most Missoula residents are unaware they're occurring.
"A lot of activity going on at local hotels and truck stops and private residences in Missoula."
Bakers said Missoula sex trafficking incidents sometimes involve local residents, but usually the perpetrators are non-residents who are traveling through the area.
He added, "And oftentimes they're on a circuit, in which they may post advertisements in Missoula for a couple days, in Helena for a couple days later."
Baker said suspects usually make their way to the Bakken oil fields in eastern Montana and western North Dakota, where there's a large population of young men and transients. He says law enforcement agencies do take proactive measures by checking for online advertisements for the sex trade, but they need the public's input in order to stop human trafficking.
"If you see something in your neighborhood, or you work at a hotel, or in an area where something's going on that just doesn't seem right or have some concern, you know if you think it involves human trafficking or sex trafficking we encourage you to call 911 and report it," Baker said.
Human trafficking is a $32 billion global industry. An estimated 300,000 children are at risk for sex trafficking every year.