Billings, Montana, renowned for its natural beauty, wildlife, and outdoor activities, isn’t uniformly safe and peaceful. Recent FBI crime statistics pinpoint Billings as the most crime-prone city in the state, exceeding national averages for violent and property crimes. Let’s delve into what makes Billings stand out in this regard.
The Most Perilous City in Montana: Billings
Billings, the largest city in Montana with a population of 117,445, tops the list of high-crime areas in the state. The city bears a crime rate of 55 incidents per 1,000 residents, making it one of the nation’s riskier urban centers. For residents or visitors, the likelihood of encountering crime stands at 1 in 18.
Billings exhibits one of the country’s highest violent crime rates, with the odds of falling victim to crimes such as rape, armed robbery, manslaughter, aggravated assault, or murder being 1 in 101. In 2019, Billings reported a staggering 1,177 violent crimes, encompassing 10 murders, 121 rapes, 224 robberies, and 822 aggravated assaults.
Paradoxically, property crime reigns supreme in Billings, with a 1 in 22 chance of becoming a victim, equating to a rate of 46 per one thousand population. This figure surpasses the national average of 19.6. Property crimes span larceny, car theft, arson, and burglary. In 2019, Billings recorded 5,386 property crimes, including 1,006 burglaries, 3,512 larcenies, and 868 motor vehicle thefts.
Factors Underlying Billings’ High Crime Rate
Several factors contribute to Billings’ elevated crime rate, including:
- Population Growth: Billings has experienced rapid population growth due to economic opportunities and a high quality of life. However, this surge in residents can lead to social conflicts and issues related to limited resources and services.
- Drug Trafficking: Situated along major drug trafficking routes (Interstate 90 and Interstate 94) from Mexico and Canada, Billings has become a hub for distributing and consuming drugs like methamphetamine, heroin, and fentanyl. Drug addiction and abuse often drive violent and property crimes.
- Gang Activity: Billings has witnessed a surge in gang-related violence, primarily among Native American gangs such as the Native Syndicate and the Indian Posse. These gangs engage in drug trafficking, robbery, assault, and murder, frequently targeting rival gangs and innocent bystanders.
- Lack of Law Enforcement: Billings grapples with a shortage of police officers and resources to combat the rising crime rate. With just about 150 sworn officers serving a population of over 100,000, the city faces challenges like inadequate patrols, investigations, arrests, and prosecutions. Factors like low morale, high turnover, and budget cuts further compound the situation.
Billings boasts numerous attractions and advantages for its residents and visitors, but it simultaneously confronts the serious challenge of a high crime rate. FBI data identifies it as Montana’s highest crime rate city, surpassing national averages for violent and property crimes. Collaboration and coordination among various stakeholders, including the police department, city government, community organizations, and citizens, are imperative to address the root causes and consequences of crime. By working together, Billings can transform into a safer and more enjoyable place for all.