HELENA — January is human trafficking awareness month, and Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen is asking Montanans to step up and help fight human trafficking in the state.
Since 2021, the Montana Department of Justice reported human trafficking cases are on the rise.
In 2023, agents tracked 143 cases in the state, an increase of 26 percent from the 106 cases in 2022 and more than double the 68 cases in 2021.
In 2015, there were just seven cases of human trafficking reported in Montana.
A new Montana law from 2023 has made soliciting sex a felony on the first offense.
Knudsen said, "Montanans should be aware of this because it's happening, and it's happening in your own communities. I tell people, I can just about guarantee everybody in Montana has seen a victim of human trafficking. They probably just didn't know what they were looking at."
There are signs to indicate a person may be in a trafficking situation, including clothing inappropriate for the climate or situation, such as a lack of control over money or personal possessions, a young person hanging around outside a convenience store, truck stop, casino, or other location.
Another sign is a person in the company of someone who does not seem to fit in, like a young person with an older individual or someone they seem fearful of.
If you suspect a trafficking situation, call 911, or if the situation does not appear to be an emergency, call or text 1-833-406-STOP (1-833-406-7867).
Also, when possible and safe for you, take photos with your phone of the suspected trafficker, victim, and license plate.