NewsLocal News


Billings police working to improve Project Eyes on the Block

Posted at 6:05 AM, May 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-17 08:05:03-04

BILLINGS - The Billings Police Department is working on improving its Eyes on the Block program, which gives the community the opportunity to provide their own surveillance video as helpful evidence.

The program started earlier this year and has grown to nearly 360 participants among residents and businesses.

Billings Police Lt. Matt Lennick said the project has started to make a positive impact on his department.

"It's getting some traction, and the guys are starting to use it more," Lennick said on Tuesday morning. "It's great to have access to it because it helps the case. It helps us identify people in the long run."

Lennick said the department is working to make the program easier for officers to use and that the beginning stages were more of a trial run.

"We really didn't know how the public response would be, so we didn't know what program we'd really want to use," Lennick said. "But now, we can tell that it has some interest, so we're taking the next step to make it easier to use, and the easier we make it to use, the more it will be utilized."

Lennick said the program has already had some serious benefit in the community. Most notably, following the shooting at Berry's Cherries carnival last month when a man was killed and multiple suspects of interest fled the scene.

Berry's Cherries Carnival Shooting

"We were looking for more video with that one," Lennick said. "I know that they found some videos that kind of helped them piece together where some of the people in interest or some of the involved parties had gone after."

The beauty of the program is that it isn't just designed for big cases. It also can be helpful in solving smaller cases, such as property theft. Billings resident Trevor O'Banion is living that scenario now, as he had his trailer and Razor four-wheeler stolen over the weekend.

"It's like somebody kicks you right in the guts," O'Banion said. "The Razor is something that me and my family do together, and knowing that someone just broke the lock off the trailer and hooked it up and now is doing who knows what with it? It's a whole new level of anger."

O'Banion was helping a friend receive cancer treatment in Denver over the weekend, and when he returned the trailer and Razor were gone.

"It just goes to show that criminals really don't have any idea what is going on in people's lives," O'Banion said. "They don't realize the effects that they have."

Trevor O'Banion

Fortunately, there's surveillance video from a nearby neighbor's home, which clearly shows a white pickup truck driving away with O'Banion's trailer and Razor on the back.

O'Banion has been working closely with Billings police, and with a little help from social media, he said he's started to get some answers.

"Without the people that have reached out to me, there's no way I'd have the information that I do now," O'Banion said. "I'm very thankful to have the police department and their resources."

Lennick said that exact case is exactly what Eyes on the Block is hoping to help solve.

"Those are the exact things we're trying to do," Lennick said. "It can help with bigger cases and shorten some of the time we would have to spend knocking on doors, but it can also give us a chance at some sort of evidence in some of these smaller criminal cases."