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Billings City Council talks about crime issues with state legislators

Posted at 11:02 AM, Dec 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-07 13:02:47-05

A meeting brought legislators law enforcement and the Billings City Council together Thursday night.

It was a chance to talk about the city's priorities for public safety at the upcoming legislative session.

Mayor Bill Cole led the Zoom meeting that included more than 30 people.

They covered several issues, including Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito's discussion about the early release of prisoners.

Scott Twito.jpg
Scott Twito

"We took a snapshot of a period of a year," Twito said. "And some of you may have even seen these figures. I think I shared them with Rep. (Barry) Uscher, Rep. (Kathy) Kelker at some point. But Yellowstone County got 181 violent or sex offenders paroled from the prison into their community. And in the same timeframe, Gallatin County got one, Missoula got 30. That tells me that our local criminal justice system, our parole department, our state parole workers here, because those numbers didn't change, they're getting overburdened."

Chris Kukulski.jpg
Chris Kukulski

"If you recall last session, there was a run at pushing roughly a million dollars of public defender cost on to the city of Billings in Yellowstone County because the state was tired of dealing with this," said Billings City Administrator Chris Kukulski. "Well, I'm going to be pushing my local elected officials that our economy and our community is going to be decimated if we don't get a handle on crime."

One of the legislators said they've been talking about these issues for more than 20 years.

Another said this is also the first year that they have met with the city to talk about these concerns.

The city also held a Zoom meeting with legislators on Nov. 11.