Detective: Human Trafficking Cases in Missoula Doubled in 2015
Human trafficking and modern day slavery are aspects of life that most Montanans never deal with, but for Missoula Police Detective Guy Baker, it’s an aspect of daily life. Baker works as part of a regional task force with the FBI and can say without a doubt that human trafficking happens in his hometown.
"I've had local girls trafficked here, I've had local girls trafficked out of state, and I've had girls from out of state trafficked here... and that's the most common one," Baker said. "So the majority of the victims we deal with are non-residents of Montana and they are traveling circuits. For example, the I-90 circuit from Spokane to Missoula is a common one, it then goes on to Helena, Bozeman, Butte, Billings and on to the Bakken."
Before noon on Wednesday (see above photo), there were already five posts on backpage.com of women that would be in Missoula, often for just a single day. Some of these posts may have been for prostitutes freely choosing to perform sex acts, but according to Baker, many of these women are trapped in sex slavery.
"In 2016, I have worked three cases," Baker said. "My most recent one was just two weeks ago. We had about half a dozen cases last year, in 2015, that I worked on. I've been working these cases since about 2011, but they doubled in 2015 after I trained our patrol officers what to look for in '14."
As to how much trafficking is really going on, Baker says "you never know what you don't know," but the fact that more cases have turned up after training is a sign that this may just be the tip of the iceberg.
Baker has been busy performing training sessions for officers, not just in Montana, but other states as well. He says public awareness of the problem is key to making progress at ending the practice. To that end, Baker will be speaking at the Stop Human Trafficking in Montana Conference that will take place at the University of Montana on Friday, May 27 starting at 8:30 a.m. The event is free and open to the public, Senator Jon Tester and Montana Attorney Tim Fox will also speak at the event.
Go here to register for the Stop Human Trafficking in Montana Conference or the Run For Freedom 5K