MISSOULA, MT – Today, United States Attorney Kurt Alme and Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst announced the preliminary results of a collaborative effort to reduce violent crime in Missoula County under the Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative, including the court appearances and arrests of 15 subjects facing federal or state charges for trafficking methamphetamine, illegally possessing firearms, robbery, aggravated assault, and partner or family member assault. In addition, the preliminary results include a violent crime fugitive and numerous arrests on warrants associated with violent crime.
Last fall, United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed all United States Attorneys to reinvigorate the Department of Justice initiative known as Project Safe Neighborhoods to reduce violent crime in communities. Since that time, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies launched a Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative for Missoula County. Participating agencies include the Missoula Police Department; Missoula County Sheriff’s Office; Montana Department of Justice Highway Patrol and Division of Criminal Investigation, Montana Department of Corrections Probation and Parole Division, U.S. Marshal’s Service, U.S. Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Homeland Security Investigations. The initiative also calls for prosecutors from the Missoula County Attorney’s Office, Montana Department of Justice Prosecution Services Bureau and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to prosecute defendants in both state and federal courts.
As Attorney General Sessions said when he visited Montana in June, “Project Safe Neighborhoods is proven to work. Under PSN, I’ve directed our U.S. Attorneys to target the most violent criminals in the most high-crime areas, and to work with community members to develop a customized crime-reduction plan. That’s exactly what U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme has done in Yellowstone and Missoula counties and across Montana. I want to thank him, our federal agents, and all of our fabulous state and local law enforcement partners who have made this initiative a success for the people of Montana. This initiative is more proof that this local, community-based model really works.”
County Attorney Pabst said, “The message of Project Safe Neighborhoods is clear, if you commit armed robbery, push methamphetamine or commit a firearms offense, you will be arrested and you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
A second part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative is to support methamphetamine substance abuse prevention and treatment. Attorney General Tim Fox, whose office is implementing the AID Montana initiative, stated, “Combating the effects of Montana’s growing substance abuse crisis will take comprehensive and collaborative efforts across the state. I want to thank U.S. Attorney Alme, Chief Brady, County Attorney Pabst and Sheriff McDermott for their incredible work in Missoula County to crack down on violent crime. I also want to thank the state law enforcement agencies assisting with this initiative including Montana Department of Criminal Investigations, Montana Highway Patrol, and the Montana Department of Justice Prosecution Services Bureau. My office’s Aid Montana initiative will continue to strategically target all aspects of substance abuse in our state, and I look forward to what we will accomplish.”
U.S. Attorney Alme said, “In addition to violent crime, meth is causing our jails to fill, overwhelming our foster care system, overcrowding our treatment facilities, burdening our hospitals, and leaving many in our community with little more than addiction. All of us in law enforcement want to support the drug courts, probation offices, treatment facilities, schools, health and mental health care facilities, foster care providers, drug prevention groups and other governmental and community organizations in creating a community response to address this problem. Our goal is to help keep the community safe by supporting those who keep people from using methamphetamine and help users become sober.”
According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, violent crime in Montana is up almost 35 % through 2016 from its low in 2010. According to data from the Missoula Police Department, violent crime in Missoula County increased 49 % from 2011 through 2017. Violent crimes include murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
In response, last month, federal, state and local law enforcement began a concerted effort in Missoula County to arrest armed robbers, methamphetamine dealers and traffickers, and felons and other prohibited persons not allowed to possess firearms under federal law.