The Montana Department of Justice reports there’s been a 100% increase in human trafficking cases between 2015 and 2016. Attorney General Tim Fox says the number of rescues of both adult and juvenile victims was also up during this timeframe.
The Montana Department of Justice released these statistics in observance of National Human Trafficking Awareness Month and in advance of the launch of a traveling art exhibit to raise awareness about the issue.
Fox says human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry taking place worldwide, including Montana.
“We have folks who are trafficked in and out of Montana for various labor type trafficking and also for sex trafficking,” he says.
Last year, the Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation had 14 Human trafficking cases, with 3 convictions. Charges are pending in 3 others; 9 cases are open or charges are pending.
Fox is concerned proposed budget cuts for his agency during the 2017 Legislative session may impact the ability of investigators to continue to look into and pursue these and other criminal cases.
“We’ll tighten our belt to the extent we’re told to and we’ll continue to try to do the best we can,” he says.
In the meantime, he says public reports of possible instances of human trafficking remain important to law enforcement.
Fox will continue to spread awareness about this issue with Wednesday’s launch a traveling Art Exhibit called “Faces of Freedom: Voices Calling for the End of Modern Day Slavery.” Each portrait depicts a person who was a victim of human trafficking and rescued.
“People need to come to grips with the fact that human trafficking does occur and that these are real lives,” he says. “Montanans by nature are compassionate, we care. I hope folks will be moved by the artwork that they see.”
The exhibit features 14 original artworks. The artists are from the west and include photographer Bonnie Sanders, a Montana State University Graduate.
Fox will be joined by representatives from Freedom 58 Project and Soroptomists International-Whitefish for the event’s kick-off :
January 11, 2017 on the 3rd floor of the Capitol at noon.
The schedule for the traveling exhibit:
January 12, 2017
- Yellowstone Art Museum – Billings
- 401 N. 27th Street
- 4:00-7:00 PM
- Speakers at 5:00 PM
January 14, 2017
- Kalispell Brewery
- 412 S. Main Street
- 2:00-4:00 PM
- Speakers at 3:00 PM
January 15, 2017
- Public House Gallery – Missoula
- 130 E Broadway Street
- 5:00-7:00 PM
- Speakers at 6:00 PM