Montana law enforcement warns of human trafficking in rental market
As Montana’s housing gets tighter and more expensive, law enforcement in the state is addressing the issue of human trafficking in the rental market, including motels.
Montana Division of Criminal Investigation Agent Toman Baukema says violators include some local landlords who "look for those who are poor, especially women, drug addicted involvement with the criminal justice system, probation, parole, things like that. And they will trade access to that housing for sexual favors."
Baukema says it is more likely to happen in larger cities like Billings and Missoula, where people are less likely to know their neighbors. But it is also happening in smaller Montana communities.
Montana Department of Justice human trafficking investigators initiated 64 cases in fiscal year 2022, an increase of 300% from the 16 cases in the previous year.
Montana lawmakers passed House Bill 112 this session to strengthen the state’s ability to prosecute those found guilty of human trafficking. Another piece of legislation, House Bill 766, would have established human trafficking training for lodging providers, but was tabled in committee.
If you are a victim of human trafficking or suspect it’s happening, call 911. An advocate can be reached via live chat at 406stop.com.