BILLINGS — Violent crime is on the rise in Billings, according to a new report from police, and that is concerning many residents including Brittney McKee.
McKee lives in the South Side of Billings with her roommate and five-year-old son.
“We pretty much can’t leave the apartment at night,” McKee, who lives on the 300 block of South 28th Street, said Friday.
She says hearing gunshots at night is a common sound.
“To me, it seems to be at least once a week, if not more,” said McKee.
She’s worried about her family’s safety.
“We had one night, there was just a ton of gunshots going off in a row, and then my son came in, crying into my room, scared,” McKee said.
New crime numbers released by Billings police point to a much larger problem. They responded to 165 weapons offenses last year, up from just 55 calls in 2020. This is a 200 percent increase.
“There is a fair amount of firearms and weapons in the community and being used by people for various crimes,” said Billings Police Chief Rich St. John.
He says it’s a problem his officers are trying to tackle, especially when it comes to weapons among youth.
Three teenagers have been shot and killed in city limits this year. In mid-January, 15-year-old Khoen Parker was shot and killed near Castle Rock Park in Billings Heights. Police are still investigating. A few weeks later, a 16-year-old boy, Jeffrey Wiliam Whitewolf, was found shot to death in a Heights hotel room. Police are investigating the shooting as "suspicious" but have made no arrests.
Then, in early April, a 15-year-old boy was found shot to death in a South Side residence. Police believe the shooting was accidental.
“There is a propensity especially with the youth in the community to quickly go to weapons they have access to and from,” St. John said.
Homicide numbers have been improving over the last year. Billings saw a 62 percent decrease from 2020 to 2021.
“We went from a record high in 20 to a much lower number, although it is unacceptable,” St. John said.
Watch the full news conference here:
McKee agrees that even one homicide is one too many.
She says more needs to be done in her neighborhood where people seem to come and go as they please.
“I got myself a gun, and I’m now carrying around a knife,” McKee said.
She hopes to move in the future when housing becomes more affordable.
“It’s not safe to be here. It’s scary,” McKee said.
Read the full 2021 crime report below: