Last Friday July 16, the Billings Police Department Evidence Center on Midland Road welcomed Senator Steve Daines, officials in law enforcement, and members of the news media for a tour of the facility that has been in operation for about a year. The Evidence Center is designed with the officers in mind and with emphasis on the proper chain of custody. They have work areas to document and package evidence, then the packages are placed in one-way lockers; once the locker door is closed, the officer has no more access to the items inside. Fentanyl is so dangerous that police treat it as a hazardous material and double-bagged for storage. The facility includes storage for evidence with retention protocols depending on the crime committed.

After the tour, Senator Daines sat down with officials for the sobering reality of crime statistics in the area. At the table were County Attorney Scott Twito, Billings Police Chief Rich St. John, Billings Councilman Roy Neese, Sheriff Mike Linder, County Commissioner John Ostlund, City Administrator Chris Kukulski, Judge Mary Jane Knisely, and state Corrections Director Brian Gootkin. Some of the details:

  • A high majority of these crimes are related to drugs. The big three are meth, heroin and fentanyl.

  • 44% of all arrests in the state are just in Yellowstone County.

  • Businesses are taking astounding losses due to shoplifting.

  • 52 new felony crimes are logged into the process each week, creating a tremendous burden for everyone involved.

  • There is a demographic increase in crime from young people with guns.

  • Suspects have several active cases in process and still commit more crimes.

  • People are emboldened to be more aggressive to others and to police officers.

  • Officers will likely encounter meth and weapons when entering a situation.

  • Recreational marijuana is leading to harder drugs, with an attitude of “What’s next? What’s better?”

  • These drugs are coming from the southern border.

  • There had not been any pandemic shutdown in the court system.

  • Public defenders are needed. Suspects are gaming the system by firing a defender given to them, hence delaying the process.

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Senator Daines took the information with all due seriousness. Then he concluded the meeting by giving a “heartfelt thank you” to the members of law enforcement, and also thanked their families for weathering the anxiety of the current environment.

Photos from the Last Days at Billings' Legendary Lazy KT Motel

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