Project Safe Neighborhoods working to lower Yellowstone County crime rate

A national program is working to make neighborhoods safer everywhere and since being introduced in Yellowstone County earlier this year and it seems to be working. 

Project Safe Neighborhoods looks at areas of Montana with high crime rates. 

Now six months in law enforcement believes that crime rates are decreasing. 

The initiative is seeing a number of alleged criminals being arrested with guns and drugs seized. 

According to the FBI violent crimes in Montana increased almost 35 percent from 2010 to 2016.

It's even higher in Billings where violent crime was up 75 percent through last year. 

7.2 million dollars. 

That's the value of methamphetamine seized through Project Safe Neighborhoods in Yellowstone County over the last six months. 

The seizure means that more than 579,000 doses were not delivered to drug addicts. 

Law enforcement also confiscated 52 firearms and 106 people were arrested and charged in state and federal court. 

Montana US Attorney, Kurt Alme, said, "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, but also there's a certain number of meth users who become violent."

Alme said the six-month figures indicate that murders, aggravated assaults, and robberies are down one percent from a year ago. 

But Alme said more work needs to be done. 

"Since March the Violent Offender Task Force has served warrants on 288 violent offenders" according to Alme. 

Some of those arrested under Project Safe Neighborhoods include James Schlensker of Billings who pleaded guilty in federal court to possessing meth with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking. 

Leticia Tyrell of Tuscon, Arizona pleaded guilty in federal court to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. 

Investigators discovered about 10 pounds of meth in her car. 

Rhye Temple of Billings is charged in state district court with multiple felonies including assault with a weapon and is suspected in a series of thefts, with more than 30 victims, and possessing numerous stolen firearms which he traded for drugs. 

Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito said these arrests serve as an example to other criminals working Billings streets. 

Twito issued this warning, "you commit armed robbery, you push meth, or you commit a firearms offense, you will be pursued, you will be arrested, and you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law." 

The Office of National Drug Control Policy has awarded the Billings Police Department over $350,000. 

Billings Police Chief Rich St. John said that money will go to Yellowstone Connect to develop a plan to reduce meth usage in Billings through prevention, treatment, and court diversion programs. 

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