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Billings City Council approves nearly $68M to boost law enforcement in budget

Billings Police Officer
Posted at 6:30 PM, Jun 11, 2024

BILLINGS - The Billings City Council has approved $68 million in next year's budget to boost the city's law enforcement.

The money will allow the city to fund new positions and programs seeking to combat the crime in Billings, according to City Council member Jennifer Owen, who represents the Heights.

New positions include six new patrol officers, two detectives dedicated to Family Violence Investigations, three Community Safety Officers, one evidence analyst, one prosecutor, one victim witness advocate, two legal support staff and seven additional firefighters.

The budget will also allocate nearly $600,000 to prevention work, including crisis response units, home visiting and domestic violence prevention work. An additional $750,000 will go toward the construction of a pre-arraignment holding facility at the Yellowstone County Detention Facility.

Owen said the Council was excited for the additional funding and said it was many of the council members' primary goal ahead of the budget meeting.

"For many of us, myself included, the number one priority was better funding for public safety resources," Owen said Tuesday afternoon. "What's going on with our youth feels very upsetting, so it needed to be looked at."

Owen is confident that this additional funding will help cut down crime.

"What we were able to do last night is invest in prevention, law enforcement personnel, fire personnel, legal, court personnel and even some innovative approaches on detention," Owen said. "The ability to really funnel and prioritize public safety was very exciting, and I can't wait to see the results."

But not everyone is as optimistic that the increase in public safety funding will solve the city's problems. Billings South Side resident Catherine Card said she sees crime every day in her neighborhood and isn't confident that additional officers will change much.

"It's been a busy year or two for crime," Card said. "I experience it because I live in an area where there are frequent police calls and frequent issues. It's just frustrating to see what I interpret as ineffective handling of some issues."

Card believes that the day-to-day operations of the Billings Police Department needs to change before progress is made. She said better-trained officers would do more to increase public safety.

"Increased officers, increased personnel, it'll just perpetuate if the training or the approach is not different," Card said. "Arresting is not the solution. There's so many other approaches that would be helpful."

Owen is proud of what the Council accomplished Monday, and she expects improvement to come. Owen said the law enforcement agencies across the region have never been so united in their fight against crime.

"This is the point in time when we are collaborating across jurisdictions more than ever," Owen said. "We are working holistically to make it better and I think that's really what's going to change the ride."