HELENA, Mont.- Manager of the Zip-Trip Bryce Ackart 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. Although officials in the company say several stores have reported helping victims.
"if we can help out our community, the better its going to be for everyone involved," said Ackert.
those who trap victims are always on the move and 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.
"As the store manager, what my responsibility is to make sure we are putting up all of the appropriate signage to show people that if there is an issue, they have a number, there is a safe number that they can contact," said Ackert.
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. 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," said Attorney General Tim Fox.
AG Fox has launched several awareness campaigns and helped get legislation passed to puts harsher punishments 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. its not a key spotlight for us to shine. we can be the first and foremost foot in the door to stop this problem," said Ackert.
For tips on how to spot victims of human trafficking visit the Department of Justice's website here: https://dojmt.gov/agooffice/human-trafficking/