After Billings voters approved a $7 million public safety levy in November 2021, city officials promised the money would help the city get safer.
So the city hired 12 new police officers and 14 more community service officers. A new mobile response unit now handles emergency calls for the fire department. And a less high-profile agency, Code Enforcement, is adding positions, which city officials say will help nip crime in the bud.
City Administrator Chris Kukulski pointed to problems at the Colonial Apartments as one area where new code enforcers can make a difference. The apartment complex on South 27th Street is notorious for crime and police visits, including a deadly shooting in December.
Residents "don't want to be tolerant of this," Kukulski said, adding, “They don’t want t this to be the norm.”
As part of levy funding, the city hired a code enforcement manager, Tina Hoeger, who is a retired Billings police officer.
“I am clean freak, so it’s the perfect job for me,” Hoeger told MTN News.
She said that the Colonial apartments mark off a bunch of criteria for code enforcement, including tackling graffiti and targeting nuisance properties.
“It’s being created into a huge case that’s probably going to go to district court," she said of the Colonial.
Hoeger's job is one of four added to code enforcement.
In addition, the levy funded two additional judges, three more city prosecutors and three victim witness specialists.
Since Kukulski was hired in 2018, he's set out to find solutions to the crime problems that plague Billings. The levy, he says, is a step in the right direction.
“It took us 10 to 15 years to slowly get to this point. Unfortunately, it’s all too familiar to us," he said.