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Missing persons task force meets in Billings

Posted at 3:20 PM, Feb 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-07 17:20:15-05

BILLINGS - Community members came together Thursday at City College at MSU Billings for knowledge and support to end to the missing persons crisis.

The Montana Department of Justice website lists close to 150 missing persons across the state.

The task force started its two-day meeting at the Double Tree Hotel by Hilton on Thursday.

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After decades of concern, Montana lawmakers passed a bill last year to create the Missing Indigenous Person's Task Force.

Attorney General Tim Fox has appointed representatives from every tribe in Montana.

A lot of the talk earlier in day focused on the search and rescue resources available and how to best use them.

"It needs to be a multi-faceted approach in that each government needs to recognize what it can bring to the table and what it can share," said Melissa Schlichting, Montana deputy attorney general. "And how we can work together mutually to address this issue beneficially for everyone involved. And so that no matter where someone goes missing, we have resources that we call on either from the federal government, the state government or the tribal government to respond to every missing persons case."

Coordination of the agencies and response times were concerns shared at the task force meeting and at the community meeting.

Of the nearly 150 missing, 40 are Native American and out of that, 21 are male and 19 are female.

The Department of Justice and the task force are trying to find missing persons and determine what leads to their disappearances.

"We heard a lot of discussion about meth and drugs in communities and how that's contributing to missing persons cases," Schlichting said. "We've also heard from around other communities, human trafficking, sex trafficking. All of those things contribute to missing persons. And so we're really looking for better ways to address all of those issues."

The task force finishes its two-day meeting at Double Tree Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.