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Chief: Expect more police at upcoming Billings cruising events

st john news conference.JPG
Posted at 3:00 PM, May 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 19:53:54-04

A larger police presence will be at upcoming cruising events that are being planned on social media on Billings West End and in the Heights, Chief Rich St. John said Tuesday.

St. John said at a news conference outside City Hall that recent cruises have attracted a large number of drivers on 24th Street West between King Avenue West and Grand Avenue and Main Street.

Last weekend, Billings police issued 42 citations and 59 warnings along the 24th Street West corridor and noted more reckless driving, eluding of police, gathering in large groups in parking lots and other dangerous behavior on the road.

The chief said in his roughly 10-minute conference that police are not planning to increase enforcement of social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19 at these events.

"This issue is unequivocally about unsafe and dangerous driving behavior that can have negative effects and take lives," St. John said.

St. John added that he recognizes people have felt "cooped up" during Gov. Steve Bullock's month-long shelter-in-place order, which expired April 27, but he urged drivers to remain safe during these organized cruising events.

Billings has had anti-cruising laws on the books since the 1990s, when the City Council took action after hundreds of vehicles could be seen some weekends making the loop on 24th Street West.

St. John said police have not needed to enforce these law for decades because cruising hasn't been a problem.

At the conference, St. John also said that law enforcement and other emergency responders and are planning a parade to honor nurse and other healthcare workers Wednesday afternoon.

Watch his full news conference below: