It's super easy to complain and moan about crime in Billings and it seems like theft and violent crimes are on the rise. But what do the stats show? Is crime really exploding around the Magic City? If so, what are the police doing about it?

The Billings Police Department released their annual report today (4/9) and since I doubt most of you will read the entire 66 page PDF, let me break down the highlights (lowlights?) for you in this highly condensed article.

Red light flasher atop of a police car. City lights on the background.
Getty Stock - ThinkStock/artolympic

Big picture numbers.

The BPD serves 42 square miles of city with 154 sworn personnel and 31 civilian employees. The total 2020 budget was just over $26.1M. There are an average of 16 officers and commanders on each of the three daily shifts, spread among nine zones in Billings.

Getty Stock/ThinkStock
Getty Stock/ThinkStock

Homicide was up significantly in 2020.

One of the biggest jumps in crime data came from a large increase in homicides. In 2019 there were only 5. The year before had 7. In 2020 there were 22 homicides (criminal, justifiable or negligent). As of the end of 2020, 68% were cleared by arrest, warrant or the suspect was deceased. The remaining cases are still under investigation.

Car thief, car theft
Getty Stock/ThinkStock - djedzura

What about those stinkin' thieves?

Burglary offenses rose in 2020, up from 585 cases to 738. Vehicle theft and unauthorized vehicle use cases jumped from 692 reports to 982. Total combined cases of theft (shoplifting, theft from buildings or vehicles, etc.) also rose substantially, from 3,768 to 4,275.

Drinking and Driving
Jon Schulte

DUI's dropped slightly, while traffic citations plummeted in 2020.

Drunk driving citations have hovered right around 600 per year for the last decade and 2020 was not much different. DUI cases slipped from 617 to 602. The highest recorded breathalyzer result was in December, when an impaired driver hit .421. It appears that BDP officers wrote significantly fewer traffic tickets in 2020, with citations plummeting from 28,847 in 2019 to 18,615 in 2020.

Prot Tachapanit
Prot Tachapanit

It's not all bad... traffic accidents and other crimes were down.

The report shows traffic accidents in Billings dropped by almost 500 cases. There were 4,014 incidents in 2019 and 3,524 in 2020. Friday is the most popular day to get in a wreck, with the highest percentage of accidents happening on King Ave West and the intersection of Hilltop and Main. Citizen complaints to Animal Control were down slightly. Trespass and fraud cases both dropped slightly in 2020 and drug offenses, runaway cases, and weapons offenses also fell.

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If you dig local crime numbers and stats, the 2020 Report is actually fairly interesting.  Police Chief Rich St. John will be hosting a Facebook Live event on Tuesday, April 13th at 6:30 PM to present and field questions from the public.

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