Law enforcement agencies work to combat human trafficking
MISSOULA, Mont. —
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
According to DoSomething.org, human trafficking is the third largest international crime industry behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking. Some 17,000 people are trafficked each year generating a profit of $32 billion every year.
It can start with a single message, but it can lead to a crime that is hidden in plain sight. Human trafficking is happening everywhere.
“Many people don't think it happens here; they think it happens in big cities or other countries. In fact sex trafficking is happening in Montana,” said Missoula police Detective Guy Baker.
Baker knows all about it. He has been working to save victims and catch those behind it for 18 years.
“Billings, by far, has the most activity, followed by Missoula and Bozeman, and then there is a drop off to Great Falls, Helena and Butte. The least one is Kallispell,” said Baker.
We've been covering sex trafficking crimes for years. In 2012 Missoula police arrested Terrance Edwards for recruiting women into sex trades.
But officers will tell you the cases aren't easy to solve.
Montana Department of Justice deputy communications director Anastasia Burton says the department is launching a new campaign to get the word out.
“We are very active in outreach. We have a new public service announcement campaign that is airing on tv stations,” said Burton.
Cities like Missoula are right off Interstate 90. The interstate cuts across the country, making it easier to trade people for money. That's one of the factors making human trafficking so difficult to stop.