BILLINGS – In the last seven days, Billings police have worked seven major incidents. All of which have been shared by the department on their Twitter page.
One week ago, on April 27, BPD reported two shootings.
The following day, April 28, a 39-year-old man was reportedly shot while driving his car.
Then, on May 1, BPD tweeted that two women were shot at a Billings motel.
The following day, May 2, a road rage incident with shots fired at a drive-thru was reported.
On May 3, an extended police standoff in the Billings Heights was tweeted.
And now, on May 4, shots were reportedly fired into a Billings business.
Billings police officers are busy, and according to a report commissioned by the Center for Public Safety Management, spread too thin.
In the most recent shooting, though no on was physically injured, the aftermath is evident.
The incident took place across the street from Kairos Center, and is noticed by the broken glass and bullet holes on First Avenue North.
To say Connell is frustrated may be an understatement of his feelings on the matter.
He says these kinds of incidents are hurting his business.
“We’ve lost two tenants that have moved out and we’ve had some others threatening to move,” he said.
However, this problem is a concern for Billings Police Chief Rich St. John as well.
In the first four months of 2021, Chief St. John says the department has received 23,000 calls.
“The one thing that’s really problematic for us is the number we are dealing with in rapid succession,” he said.
In other words, police do not have the time or manpower to fully investigate one violent crime before the next one is called in.
“When I take a group of officers, leave them alone, give them a real focused task, they make a difference and they drive issues down. We don’t have the personnel to do that because the calls keep coming in,” Chief St. John said.
In February, the city received a 210 page report from the Center for Public Safety Management. In part, it concluded that the need for additional staffing is “immediate” and “urgent.”
Chief St. John plans on requesting an additional 19 new positions to help the department.
“You know, again it’s an expensive prospect to put cops on the street. I understand that, but we’re at a point now where something’s got to give,” he said.
The question now: Where does the city find the money to pay for those positions?
Billings City Council members are in the preliminary stages of their annual budget review.
Police Chief St. John said he will make his recommendations for his department May 17.