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Located in the southern part of the state along Interstate 15, Helena is the capital of Montana and has a population of roughly 33,000 residents. It’s the largest city and county seat of Lewis and Clark County, MT. Prostitution and sex trafficking are known problems in the city and surrounding areas, dating back to times before Montana’s statehood. For example, in 1886 there were at least 52 prostituted women living near or on Wood and Clore Streets. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is child sex trafficking.
To reduce the demand for commercial sex in the city, law enforcement has arrested sex buyers through alternative investigations. For example, in 2010, what began as a report of theft at a local convenience store resulted in the arrest of two men on charges of soliciting prostitution. Upon arrival to the scene, a sex buyer fled, leaving behind his car and two female passengers. The women told police that the man and his roommate had been sex trafficking a 16-year-old girl on Craigslist. Police arrested the second sex buyer/trafficker in Helena the following day. Helena (and Missoula) city officials worked with the recovered victims to identify the male sex buyers responsible for their exploitation. According to reports, detectives were able to identify 12 male sex buyers through information found on the sex traffickers’ phone records. All 12 were arrested and charged with solicitation.
After discovering the sex trafficking ring that exploited teenage girls in exchange for money, the Helena Police Department Police conducted a web-based reverse sting operation. According to reports, two sex buyers were arrested upon their arrival at a Helena hotel and charged with soliciting prostitution. The men faced a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail sentence of up to a year. They were also added to a list of people who had been cited for charges stemming from a prostitution ring in the Helena and Missoula areas. On March 18, 2011, one of the sex buyers pleaded guilty and received a 180-day suspended sentence, a one-year deferred sentenced, and was required to pay a fine of $340. The identities of arrested sex buyers were included in reports by local media outlets.
- Helena Police Department
- Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office
- Missoula Police Department
- Helena Human Trafficking Task Force
- Great Falls Police Department
Web-Based Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:
- “2 More Men Cited in Missoula Craigslist Prostitution Ring,” Helena Independent Record, March 11 2011.
- “Two Men Charged in Craigslist Prostitution,” Helena Independent Record, March 11 2011.
- “2 More Men Cited in Missoula Craigslist Prostitution Ring”, Missoulian, March 11 2011.
- “2 More Men Enter Pleas in Missoula Craigslist Prostitution Case”, Missoulian, March 18 2011.
- 2 men enter pleas in Craigslist ring case (2011)
Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:
- Two accused of using Craigslist in prostitution ring (2010)
- Police investigate prostitution in Helena (2010)
- “Missoula Man Pleads Guilty in Craigslist Teen Prostitution Case”, Missoulian, December 11 2010.
- “BLM Employee Pleads Not Guilty in Missoula Case Involving Craigslist Prostitution Ring”, Missoulian, December 14 2010.
- “4 Men Plead Either Guilty or No Contest to Being Clients of Craigslist Prostitution Ring”, Missoulian, December 17 2010.
- “2 Missoula Men in Court on Craigslist Prostitution Charges; 1 Pleads Guilty”, Missoulian, December 20 2010.
- “UM Student Pleads Guilty to Pimping Teen Prostitution Ring on Craigslist”, Missoulian, December 21 2010.
- “Missoula Man Pleads ‘No Contest’ in Craigslist Prostitution Case”, Missoulian, December 23 2010.
- “Clinton Man Accused of Being Craigslist Prostitution Client Skips Court Hearing”, Missoulian, January 20 2011.
- “2nd Missoula Man Pleads Guilty to Running Craigslist Prostitution Ring”, Missoulian, January 25 2011.
- “Potomac Man Pleads Guilty to Attempted Prostitution in Craigslist Case”, Missoulian, January 28 2011.
- “UM Student who Pimped Girls on Craigslist for Beer Money Gets Prison”, Missoulian, February 15 2011.
- “Missoula Man Sentenced for Running Teen Prostitution Ring on Craigslist”, Missoulian, March 9 2011.
- Down the Rabbit Hole (2011)
- EH man accused of child sex crimes (2015)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Police Probe Teen Prostitution Ring,” Helena Independent Record, September 14 2010.
- “Authorities Look into Prostitution Case in Helena,” Helena Independent Record, September 15 2010.
- “Montana Man Charged with Sexual Abuse of Children and Promotion of Prostitution,” CBS/KTVQ-TV 2, October 6 2015.
- https://www.missoulacurrent.com/government/2019/01/sex-trafficking-montana/ (2019)
- https://www.montanarightnow.com/montana-places-second-in-fight-to-end-child-sex-trafficking/article (2019)
- https://www.ktvh.com/montana-sex-trafficking-survivor-shares-their-story-encourages-others-to-seek-help (2021)
- https://www.ktvh.com/montana-sex-trafficking-survivor-shares-their-story-encourages-others-to-seek-help (2022)
- https://www.einnews.com/attorney-general-knudsen-trucking-industry-continue-fight-human-trafficking-montana (2022)
- https://www.victoriaadvocate.com/human-trafficking-in-montana/video (2023)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- Medical Association Asks Closure of Prostitution Houses (1951)
- Dead hooker: Montanan, top student (1976)
- A City With No Madams (1981)
- Prostitution allegations triggered police probe of Helena arts studio (1983)
- Loble won’t suppress prostitution testimony (1983)
- Oldest profession has a colorful Montana history (1997)
- “Tycoons in Petticoats; Frontier Montana’s Uncommon Red Light Madams,” Distinctly Montana, July 7 2006.
- “Special Report: History of Prostitution in Helena,” NBC/KTVH-TV 12, November 25 2015.
- https://www.greatfallstribune.com/prostitution-gambling-widespread-throughout Montana (2018)
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