Big Sky Roundup

Town pump, LifeGuard Group and state launch human trafficking awareness campaign

By: - January 31, 2022 3:50 pm

The statue of Thomas Francis Meagher in front of the stairs of the Montana Capitol (Photo by Eric Seidle for the Daily Montanan).

Posters advertising a Montana-specific human trafficking hotline will now be posted at all Town Pumps and rest areas in the state as an effort to spread more awareness about trafficking in Montana.

The Governor’s Office announced the partnership among the state, Town Pump and the LifeGuard Group in a news release on Monday — the last day of Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. The LifeGuard Group is a nonprofit based in Missoula that works to stop trafficking. Earlier in January, the governor, attorney general, law enforcement agencies, and community groups hosted a roundtable to troubleshoot curbing human trafficking in the state.

“All of us there agreed – awareness is critical to stopping these despicable crimes and supporting victims,” Gov. Greg Gianforte said about the event in Monday’s news release. “I encourage all Montana convenience stores, gas stations, hotels, restaurants, clinics, and schools to join Town Pump and others who are committed to ending human trafficking in our state.”

Since 2015, the Montana Department of Justice has tracked an 871% increase in human trafficking cases in Montana. Seven human trafficking cases were tracked in 2015, compared to 68 cases in 2021. The LifeGuard Group launched the Montana trafficking hotline — 1-833-406-STOP — through a grant from the Gianforte Family Foundation in 2020, and in 2021, the hotline received 86 calls.

Along with displaying the hotline at its Montana location, Town Pump is also granting LifeGuard Group Missoula $30,000.

“The generosity of Town Pump is overwhelming. We are filled with gratitude for their donation and Governor Gianforte’s new partnership, but also have the affirmation of the importance of this task of protecting those who may be sold or exchanged. This is an act of protection and prevention for all those in our communities,” Lowell Hochhalter, founder of the LifeGuard Group, said in the release.

According to the release, the governor has also directed the Montana Department of Transportation to post LifeGuard’s posters with the hotline in all state rest areas.

 “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.”

If you suspect human trafficking, call 911 in an emergency. In non-emergency situations call 1-833-406-STOP (1-833-406-7867) or reach an advocate via 406stop.com. If you see suspected traffickers, do not intervene, and remain at a safe distance. Take pictures of the trafficker, victim, and vehicle license plate if possible.

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