Convenience store helps stop human trafficking - ABC FOX Montana Local News, Weather, Sports KTMF

HELENA, Mont.- A new program seeks to help victims of trafficking or kidnapping.

Bryce Ackart, manager of the Helena Zip-Trip, said convenience stores are at the front lines for helping human trafficking victims and spotting their captors.

The "More than Convenience, We Care" program has only been in place less than six months, but officials in the company say several stores have reported helping victims.

"If we can help out our community, the better it's going to be for everyone involved," Ackart said.
 

Traffickers often rely on places like convenience stores, rest stops and hotels. So, this Zip-Trip on Euclid Avenue makes certain if a victim walks in, they will know how to get help. Ackart said they post signs letting people know that help is available and gives a safe number to call.

Human trafficking is a term used to cover a variety of human enslavement. Sex traffickers often force young men and women into prostitution, labor traffickers steal young children, forcing them into indentured servitude. Any way you put it, it's an unthinkable situation in which to be.

  "Most of us can't imagine this. I certainly can't," said state Attorney General Tim Fox. "Having someone shower you will affection and gifts, trust love and respect and them gradually start doing things to you to brow beat you, threaten you, to physically harm you into doing something you know is wrong and that you know will hurt you."

Fox has launched several awareness campaigns and has advocated for legislation to increase penalties on offenders.

"We need to know that there are people crying for help in our state. It is a crime against humanity. It is absolutely evil and we have to stop it," said Fox.

 According to the Human Trafficking Hotline, more than 150 victims have been identified in Montana since the site started taking record in 2007. Although as awareness for this crime spreads, so do prevention programs like the one at Zip-Trip.

"Cenex, Zip-Trip is trying to do this to help out our community," Ackart said. "We can be the first and foremost foot in the door to stop this problem."

For tips on how to spot victims of human trafficking, visit the Department of Justice's website. 

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