Surrounded by local, state and federal law enforcement officials, U.S. Attorney for Montana Kurt Alme delivered positive news to the media on Wednesday that crime rates are down in Missoula due to the Project Safe Neighborhoods program, instituted a year ago.

Alme explained why the Project Safe Neighborhoods program was necessary.

“From 2013 to 2017, violent crime increased by over 35 percent, said Alme. “We now have the second highest crime rate in the Pacific Northwest, second only to South Dakota. Working with Attorney General Fox’s office, we identified areas of Montana which had higher violent crime rates, higher growth in violent crime rates and higher total violent crimes, and Missoula County was one of those areas.”

Alme detailed the direct correlation of meth and the increased crime rate.

“Meth is causing violent crimes in dealer-to-dealer violence, armed robberies of casinos and convenience stores, and also meth users who become violent,” he said. “So, beginning last May the law enforcement leaders in this room committed to a two prong approach, focused law enforcement and meth prevention and treatment. For enforcement we focused on arresting meth traffickers and dealers, armed robbers, violent felons with firearms and violent offenders with outstanding warrants.”

Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst began her comments by relating a harrowing story about a woman who was beaten with a baseball bat, threatened with a machete and strangled due to her partner’s extensive meth use.

“Methamphetamine impacts most of our work in the criminal justice system and has cascading effects in the local community,” said Pabst. “In addition to charging drug crimes, we’ve seen a correlation between meth use and violent crimes, meth use and child abuse have a correlation along with meth use and child neglect and meth use and mental health commitments and meth use and property crimes.”

Alme then relayed the good news that Project Safe Neighborhoods has been a success so far in Missoula County.

“Violent crime in Missoula had increased by 49 percent from 2011 to 2017, however in the 12 months since PSN began as of May the first of last year, murder, robbery and aggravated assault decreased over 18 percent continuing a decline of 4.9 percent over the previous 12 months.”

Alme said 20.5 pounds of meth representing nearly 75,000 doses with an estimated street value of over $650,000 had been seized in federal cases, in addition to 44 firearms. Over 330 federal and state warrants were served in Missoula County since last May.

Project Safe Neighborhoods is in effect in both Missoula and Yellowstone counties.