Homicides, robberies, drug offenses, burglaries, and thefts in Billings all fell last year compared to 2018, while other types of violent crime went up, according to a new report from Billings police.
The Billlings Police Department released its annual report Wednesday and it showed progress in the fight against several types of crime in the Billings, but not all of them.
Billings Police Chief Rich St. John says the statistics compiled for 2019 proved that the effort to attack property crimes and robberies is working. He also credited re-energized partnerships with other agencies to get the worst offenders off the streets.
“We put a concerted effort into really attacking the property crimes and robberies and some of the assaults that we saw in 2017 and 2018. And one of the reasons we were able to do that is because we were at full near full staff for most of the year,” said St. John.
Burglaries fell from 687 to 586 in 2019.
One crime that Billings had a dubious honor for, car thefts, had a double-digit drop from 772 in 2018 to 572 in 2019.
Robberies dropped from 113 to 104, while drug offenses fell from 1,910 to 1,452 this past year.
In 2019, there five homicides in Billings-- three criminal, one deliberate, and one negligent. That's down from seven in 2018, which included five criminal homicides and two justifiable homicides.
The news wasn’t all positive. Sexual assaults went from 70 to 92. And both aggravated and non-aggravated assaults rose, particularly between family members.
“What is really disturbing is some of the domestic crimes that we see. Aggravated assaults continue to climb and a lot of that has to do with a definition change in a state statute which added strangulation as a stand-alone charge. And we find that a lot of our domestic abuse cases involve strangulation,” said St. John.
Overall, St. John says he is proud of the work his department has done, but he says the upcoming proposed public-safety levy is critical to keep the numbers moving in the right direction.
The Billings City Council has been discussing a levy to fill a $5 million shortfall in the public safety and general funds, which would also address what St. John and other city officials say are a shortage of police and firefighters to respond to the needs of a growing city.
“I think that sets the table for a discussion on the safety levy issues that when we can dedicate officers to proactive policing they make a difference. And I think when you look at the statistics here that proves out,” said St. John.
Read the full report here.