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Governor's office announces partnership to combat human trafficking

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Human trafficking meeting

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, left, and Bryan Lockerby, administrator of the state Department of Criminal Investigation, take part in a roundtable discussion on human trafficking in January in Missoula.

Gov. Greg Gianforte’s office announced on Monday a partnership between Town Pump and the LifeGuard Group to further address the human trafficking crisis in Montana.

Town Pump will display the LifeGuard Group’s human trafficking hotline in its locations across the state so victims can get support. The company is also giving a $30,000 grant to Lifeguard to support the organization's efforts to fight human trafficking, according to a Monday news release. 

Lifeguard Group is a Missoula-based nonprofit with a mission of fighting human trafficking. They launched the hotline in 2020 and provide training, resources and classes on the issue. 

“Town Pump is pleased to be partnering with Governor Gianforte and state agencies to provide resources, including a grant of $30,000 to the LifeGuard Group, to raise public awareness of human trafficking in Montana,” Mike Kenneally, spokesperson for Town Pump said in the news release. “We are committed to helping educate people on this issue. The more we can educate, the more we can save.”

In the last year, the state’s Division of Criminal Investigations department has seen a 65% uptick in human trafficking investigations — 41 were investigated in 2020, with a jump to 68 in 2021. This does not include what’s going on at local levels, Attorney General Austin Knudsen said at a roundtable event discussing trafficking in Montana earlier this month.  

Also at the roundtable, hosted at the Montana State Crime Lab in Missoula, Missoula Police Detective Guy Baker urged officials to get posters with the hotline up in rest areas, convenience stores and truck stop restrooms. 

Gianforte has directed the Montana Department of Transportation to get LifeGuard's posters with the hotline number posted in the state's rest areas, the release said. 

“Millions of people travel our roads and highways each year, and we want them to be extra sets of eyes to end human trafficking in Montana,” MDT Director Mack Long said in the release. “Through the governor’s new partnership with Town Pump, we can make an even greater impact to promote awareness and help save lives.”

Roundtable participants universally stressed that combating trafficking is a team effort. 

“Addressing this issue is going to take all of us,” Gianforte said at the event. 

Neither urban, rural nor tribal communities are immune to the human trafficking crisis, Gianforte said. Tribal communities are especially impacted by trafficking, since cases contributed to rates of missing and murdered Indigenous people.

If you or anyone you know is a victim of human trafficking, call the Montana Human Trafficking Hotline at 833-406-STOP or your local law enforcement agency.

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