MISSOULA - The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Montana reports a second straight year of violent crimes being down in Missoula County.
Montana Department of Justice statistics show from 2011 to 2017, the City of Missoula's violent crime rate increased 49 percent. Violent crimes include murders, robberies and aggravated assaults.
The U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana Kurt Alme said the rise in violent crime is primarily linked to methamphetamine.
"We identified this increase in violent crime was primarily linked to meth use," Alme said.
In an effort to lower these numbers, Alme said Montana joined a nationwide initiative called Project Safe Neighborhoods to crack down on violent crime in May 2018.
"PSN is a reinvigorated U.S. Department of Justice initiative that targets the most violent criminals in high-crime areas and works with federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement and community partners to reduce crime," according to the DOJ press release.
Since implementing PSN, U.S. Attorney Almes said Missoula County experienced a 9.2-percent decline in violent crimes from May 2018 to May 2019. He said overall, Missoula County saw a 25.7-percent decline since PSN's enactment in May 2018.
"Eighty-five fewer people in Missoula County were victim of murder, robbery or aggravated assault, not just simple assault, but aggravated assault," Alme said.
Law enforcement agencies and more than 30 non-profit and government organizations coordinated by United Way in Missoula County is working to develop a community plan to reduce meth demand through treatment and drug prevention. The community coalition is being called "Missoula Substance Abuse Connect."
"Meth is overwhelming our courtrooms, our jails and our hospitals, it's devastating families and kids, and it is nurturing the next generation of criminals and addicts,"Susan Hay Patrick CEO of United Way of Missoula County said. "We can and must break this terrible cycle by providing greater access to effective treatment and prevention."
According to a DOJ press release, 60 lbs of meth, representing 217,440 doses, and having an estimated street value of $450,000 have been seized in federal cases.
Almes said cracking down on violent crime is only the first step. Moving forward, he said drug treatment and prevention is the next step to address the issue.
PSN and Missoula Substance Abuse Connect applied for addition grants to provide greater access to effective treatment and prevention.