BILLINGS, Mont. - Human trafficking cases are going up in Montana according to new data from the Department of Criminal Investigations for Montana:
According to the data, cases jumped 50% in 2017. From 2017 to 2020, human trafficking cases almost doubled. Then, there was a big jump in cases in 2021.
FBI Special Agent Brandon Walter said one common belief among customers of human trafficking is that the victim wants to be there. He said that is very rarely the case.
"When you pay for commercial sex in this town, you are literally engaged in raping a human trafficking victim," Agent Walter said.
"They are not doing it to support themselves," he added. "They are working for a human trafficker who is taking all, if not most of, their money. And is stringing them along on this life of no opportunity, no choices for them. So, when a trafficking customer goes into a hotel room, regardless of what that female victim tells you, what you are doing is rape."
Agent Walter said the human trafficking problem in Billings is much more prevalent that they average Billings resident would believe.
"There's no question in my mind, all of the hotels in Billings, Montana have been utilized for human trafficking at one time or another. In fact, we have been at a majority of the hotels during operations, and we have found human trafficking victims at these hotels."
Signs of human trafficking include being fearful or submissive, avoiding eye contact, physical abuse, waits for permission to speak, unsure of current location, gives confusing answers to simple questions, no ID and an older man with a younger girl where they don't look related.
If you want to get involved in the Yellowstone County Human Trafficking task force, you can email Stoptraffickingmontana@gmail.com.
There is also a national human trafficking hotline, 1-888-373-7888.