MISSOULA - Violent crime is up, and Missoula is no exception.
Ranging from domestic violence to DUIs to homicides, criminal cases have surged in Missoula during the pandemic.
With crime rising, Gov. Greg Gianforte met with law enforcement and state representatives Thursday for a roundtable to discuss the numbers.
He told MTN News, "we all want safe communities, and unfortunately we've had a spike in violent crime."
"Crime, domestic violence, it's all tied in with substance use," said Stepping Stones Counseling’s Executive Director and Clinical Manager Shari Rigg.
Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst said Missoula is seeing drugs coming in from out of state and even out of country.
She said that's "directly affecting addiction in our community, as well as driving crime."
The Missoula County Attorney's Office reports in 2021, 43% of all crimes reported in Missoula County were violent crimes. That's a jump from 20% in 2017.
"The root of this is really addiction and mental health, and we need diversion programs, to help non-violent offenders get in to programs that help them get healthy, rather than end up in a jail." - Gov. Greg Gianforte
Gianforte noted the population at the Women's Prison in Billings was recently more than 40% Native women. According to the last US Census, only 4.6% of Billings total population was Native, and across the whole state, the figure was 6.7%.
Multiple crises continue to plague Montana, including Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP).
"They leave victims understandably shaken and anxious, from the trauma they've endured," Gianforte said. "And in the most tragic of cases, they leave families of victims mourning the loss of a loved one."
The data shows Montana needs change and Thursday's roundtable was just a start of the discussion.
"For the legislators at the table, I will say we are putting together our legislative plan for 2023, we'd love to have your fingerprints on it, bring your ideas," Gianforte said.