BILLINGS – Six months into a new concentrated effort to combat violent crime in Yellowstone County, law enforcement said Tuesday that progress is being made.
Flanked by federal, state, and local law enforcement, U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana Kurt Alme said at the federal courthouse in Billings that murders, aggravated assaults, and robberies are down 1 percent below the average of the previous two years.
Alme was giving an update on Project Safe Neighborhoods, a federal program to reduce violent crime through a multi-jurisdictional law enforcement effort.
Violent crimes had been up 29 percent over the past two years for the first quarter of 2018 before the new Project Safe Neighborhoods effort began.
The initiative aims to identify the most violent criminals in high crime areas, which includes Billings. Alme said what is driving the crime in Montana’s biggest city and the rest of the state is methamphetamine, which continues to come into the state from Mexico.
“The unanimous conclusion is that the primary cause of the violence is meth. It’s not only dealer-on-dealer violence, it’s not only armed robberies of casinos and convenience stores to get money to purchase meth, there’s also a certain number of meth users who become violent,” he said.
In Yellowstone County, more than 100 people have been charged as a result of the effort, dozens of weapons have been confiscated, and around 160 pounds of Methamphetamine have been seized with a street value of more than seven million dollars.
Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito vowed to keep the pressure on.
“If you commit armed robbery, push meth, or commit a firearms offense, you will be prosecuted to the full of extent of the law,” said Twito.
To help fund Project Safe Neighborhoods in Montana, the DOJ awarded $136,802 to the Montana Board of Crime Control for initiatives in Yellowstone and Missoula counties. Along with identifying criminals some of the money is also being used for substance abuse prevention and treatment programs.
Reporting by Russ Riesinger for MTN News