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Butte has a population of about 34,000 residents and is the county seat of Silver Bow County, MT. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been well-documented in the city, surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of Silver Bow County. Some accounts from 1910 report that the city’s red-light district operated 24/7 in three shifts, and that each shift had 800 prostituted women. Efforts to eradicate prostitution in Butte date back more than a century, when a law prohibiting prostitution was passed in 1890, and the city’s first female police officer was hired to address the problem in 1913.
For decades, prostitution, sex trafficking, and the ancillary crimes they generate result in complaints to law enforcement from residents and businesses. In September 2021, people shared their concerns with the Butte-Silver Bow Council of Commissioners. One woman said she’s “witnessed a variety of crime in her neighborhood, including drug dealing, theft, prostitution and indecent exposure.” Among the more serious problems associated with commercial sex in the area include child sex trafficking and violence against prostituted women.
While local law enforcement agencies have not specifically targeted consumer-level demand for commercial sex through proactive measures such as reverse stings, police have been known to apprehend sex buyers and publicize their identities. For example, in August 2014, a 53-year-old man was charged for prostitution after paying for a lap dance. In April 2017, a Butte man was arrested after police responded to a call of a disturbance and possible sexual assault in an apartment on the 200 block of West Park Street. The Silver Bow County Undersheriff said that the suspect told police he had paid to engage in commercial sex with the woman. The man was booked into jail for felony sexual assault, purchasing prostitution, and felony probation violation. The man’s name, age, and other identifiers were included in news releases.
In December 2020, a Butte man was arrested and being held on $75,000 bond for suspected felony sexual assault and felony patronizing prostitution. According to justice court documents, the man allegedly subjected a 15-year-old to sexual contact with a 13-year-old female while both were in his vehicle, and also attempted to convince the 15-year-old to allow him to sexually abuse her in exchange for money and drugs. Both alleged offenses occurred in Butte-Silver Bow County. Felony sexual assault is punishable by a term of not less than four years or more than 100 years. The mandatory minimum sentence for felony-level patronizing prostitution is 25 years without parole.
Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:
- Jury trial date set in Butte prostitution case (2010)
- https://billingsgazette.com/butte-man-seeking-nanny-pleads-no-contest-to-prostitution-charge (2010)
- khttps://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/man-busted-calling-911-stripper-denied-sex-article (2014)
- http://www.khq.com/butte-man-charged-with-prostitution-after-lap-dance (2014)
- https://www.kulr8.com/butte-man-charged-with-prostitution-after-lap-dance (2014)
- https://mtstandard.com/crime-and-courts/blotter/butte-man-arrested-for-sexual-assault-purchasing-prostitution (2017)
- https://billingsgazette.com/montana-man-arrested-on-suspicion-of-sexual-assault-and-purchasing (2017)
- https://mtstandard.com/butte-man-jailed-for-suspected-felony-sex-crimes (2020)
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:
- Murphy, M. (1984). The Private Lives of Public Women: Prostitution in Butte, Montana, 1878-1917. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, Vol. 7, No. 3, pp. 30-35.
- Denizens of the Badlands (1995)
- Trumbull, N. (2011). Prostitution.
- https://www.greatfallstribune.com/upstairs-girls-leave-mark-states-culture (2014)
- Butte man accused of felony sexual abuse of children (January, 2016)
- Butte man charged after allegedly arranging to meet minor for sex (July, 2016)
- https://www.greatfallstribune.com/prostitution-gambling-widespread-throughout Montana (2018)
- https://www.wusa9.com/this-man-is-fighting-to-save-montanas-last-brothel (2018)
- https://www.missoulacurrent.com/sex-trafficking-montana/ (2019)
- https://mtstandard.com//mining-city-history-first-policewoman-tried-to-prevent-prostitution (2021)
- https://mtstandard.com/butte-residents-address-council-over-crime-in-neighborhoods (2021)
- https://mtstandard.com/demolition-of-blue-range-prostitution-cribs-in-butte-underway (2021)
- https://www.victoriaadvocate.com/human-trafficking-in-montana/video (2023)
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