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Bozeman is a city of about 55,000 in Southern Montana and is the county seat of Gallatin County, MT. Prostitution and sex trafficking are well-documented in the city and surrounding area. Records of Bozeman’s red-light district date back to the 1870s, when a successful madam came from Helena, MT. In an 1880 census, there were four women who listed “prostitute” as their occupation, and by 1904 there were about nine “female boarding” houses on just one block. Even back then, there was a significant risk for both traffickers and people in prostitution—in 1873 a pimp was hung by a mob who believe he was responsible for shooting two prostituted women.
Local businesses and residents have complained about prostitution, and the community plays a role in law enforcement deciding to conduct operations. Among the more serious issues surrounding the area’s commercial sex market is child sex trafficking. For example, in 2017, a 22-year-old Bozeman man was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison after he plead guilty to sex trafficking two teenage girls in Missoula, MT. Due to the recent increase in sex trafficking reports in the county, the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office has implemented efforts to raise awareness within the community. In addition, the county has formed human trafficking task force, the Gallatin County Human Trafficking Task Force, that consists of officials from the GCSO and other local law enforcement agencies to serve as the county’s first line of defense for sex trafficking cases.
In an effort to reduce prostitution in the city, local law enforcement has been known to conduct operations targeting demand for commercial sex. For example, in August 2018, the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office, Bozeman Police Department, and Homeland Security Investigation conducted a web-based reverse sting operation that targeted individuals seeking to purchase commercial sex in the county. As a result of the investigation, seven male sex buyers were arrested after allegedly responding to advertisements posted on websites frequented for facilitating sexual contacts. Law enforcement officials say the operation specifically focused on targeting the demand for illicit commercial sex in the area. During this operation, the decoy advertisement received over 50 inquiries for various sexual acts and numerous meetings were scheduled. The identities of the arrested male sex buyers were included in press releases.
Loss of employment is also a consequence of buying sex in the city. For example, in 1988, a Bozeman lawyer was accused of soliciting prostitution from a female client who could not afford to pay for counsel in her divorce case. The investigation was initiated after the unidentified woman secretly recorded her conversation with the lawyer and reported the incident to police. The lawyer was arrested on charges of soliciting prostitution in addition to other charges including one charge of misconduct and two charges of incompetent practice. As a result of the investigation, his license to practice law was disbarred for a minimum of three months by the Montana Supreme Court. According to reports, the sex buyer had only been practicing law for two years. His identity was included in reports by local media outlets.
- Bozeman Police Department
- Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office
- Gallatin County Human Trafficking Task Force
- Homeland Security Investigations
- The HEART Initiative
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- http://www.kpax.com/7-arrested-in-gallatin-co-for-prostitution-in-human-trafficking-operation (2018)
- http://www.kulr8.com/gallatin-county-arrests-seven-people-in-undercover-prostitution-sting (2018)
- https://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/seven-accused-johns-arrested-in-gallatin-county-prostitution-sting (2018)
- YouTube: 1 of the 7 people charged in Bozeman prostitution sting pleads guilty (2018)
- https://nbcmontana.com/7-arrested-in-bozeman-human-trafficking-bust (2018)
- Montana high court: Citizens can’t expect privacy when texting undercover cops (2021)
- https://www.krtv.com/1-of-the-7-people-charged-in-bozeman-prostitution-sting-pleads-guilty/ (2018)
- https://www.kbzk.com/gallatin-county-human-trafficking-task-force-promotes-awareness-and-calls-attention-to-growing-issue (2021)
Sex Buyer Arrest, Loss of Employment, Identity Disclosure:
- Bozeman lawyer requests sexual favors in exchange of payment from female client (1988)
- Bozeman lawyer disbarred for prostitution allegations (1988)
- Bozeman lawyer disbarred over reported prostitution suggestion (1988)
Cameras, Neighborhood Action:
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:
- https://www.facebook.com/pkbozeman post
- https://www.economist.com/0working-girls (2008)
- https://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/colorful-madams (2011)
- https://billingsgazette.com/sentencing-looms-in-bozeman-sex-case (2009)
- https://nbcmontana.com/woman-arrested-for-prostitution-in-bozeman (2013)
- http://www.abcfoxmontana.com/the-difficulty-of-prosecuting-prostitution-cases (2016)
- Bozeman man sentenced for prostituting teen girls (2017)
- https://missoulian.com/bozeman-man-sentenced-for-prostituting-teens-in-missoula (2017)
- https://www.greatfallstribune.com/prostitution-gambling-widespread-throughout Montana (2018)
- https://www.missoulacurrent.com/sex-trafficking-montana/ (2019)
- https://www.victoriaadvocate.com/human-trafficking-in-montana/video (2023)
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