Annual crime report shows calls down; violent and property crime - KULR8.com | Montana's News Leader | Billings, MT

Annual crime report shows calls down; violent and property crimes mostly up

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BILLINGS, Mont. -

Some good news and some not so good news as Billings Police release their crime numbers for 2016.

This annual report is something the department is required to do under the law.

Over the years Chief Rich St. John says they've taken these statistics and really broken them down to show what type of calls the department gets on a yearly basis

Speaking of the volume of calls, that's good news for the department. The volume of calls the department responded to in Billings was down in 2016.

St. John says one of the areas that saw a significant decrease in calls is the downtown area. He credits that to the MAAP program. The Motivated Addiction Alternative Program focuses on treatment first.

It started in 2014 and depending on the intoxication offense the person is accused of they can choose to either go to treatment, be cited or go to jail.

Chief St. John says, with the number of calls for incapacitated people citywide down it shows how successful the program is. He says, "Whether they quit drinking, whether they left, whether they participated in the program the fact of the matter is we're not dealing with the level of problem that we were in previous years so to me that's a success."

That's some of the good news.

What's not good news is the number of calls for property and violent crimes. Those calls for the most part are up.

In that category the department places crimes like burglary, larceny, vehicle theft and arson. We reported late in 2016 about the rise in vehicle theft. In 2016 there were 820 reporter vehicle thefts compared to 792 in 2015 and 161 in 2014.

Chief St. John says a lot of those were from vehicles left to warm up, unlocked.

The biggest change in 2016 from the last two years is the homicide rate. We went from nine murders in 2015 to one in 2016. That one is classified as a negligent homicide.

St. John says what concerns them is the number of assaults where a weapon is involved.

St. John also says they are concerned with the amount of drugs involved in crime reports. He says, "At the end of the day what we're seeing, and a lot of the cases that we deal with methamphetamine, heroin, and prescription drugs. You got marijuana out there always and that's always a gray area now that we have medical marijuana in a different version of the law so we're going to see how that plays out."

St. John says something that will help them going forward this year is being up to full staff. He says the extra manpower will help officers be more proactive instead of being report takers.

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