On Wednesday, Butte-Silver Bow Undersheriff George Skuletich and District 3 Montana Highway Patrol Captain Josh Brown recapped 2018 crime and crash statistics in Butte-Silver Bow County.
After looking over data from both 2017 and 2018, Skuletich found Butte-Silver Bow Law Enforcement received roughly 500 fewer calls and made nearly 300 more arrests in 2018 than in the previous year. He also said he believes violent crimes were down a bit compared to 2017, along with DUI arrests.
“There’s not that big of a difference … but we’re still receiving over 33,000 calls that 33 patrol officers are responding to. They’re (the officers) running pretty hard,” Skuletich said.
Skuletich said some of the biggest crimes of the year included two officer-involved shooting incidents, including one where an officer shot a man in the arm. He also mentioned the Williamsburg deadly dispute, which is still under investigation. Butte police will submit their top seven crimes to the FBI soon, Skuletich said.
Overall, the undersheriff felt 2018 was a good year for Butte police. He said the department was out and involved in the community more, it established a community relations officer, and developed new programs to better connect police with the public.
Skuletich also said all of the officers, including those in the detention center, received body cameras and all of the frontline patrol cars have in-car video.
“As technology changes, we want to continue to keep up,” Skuletich said.
Looking forward, Skuletich said a main focus for county law enforcement will be addressing the overcrowded Detention Center. In 2018, the jail reached 122 inmates at one point, which is 40 over the limit.
“If we can work with the judges to decrease our jail population, that would be a good thing,” Skuletich said.
For about six months, Judge Jerome McCarthy has implemented a community service program which allows misdemeanor convicts to work off their jail time doing various labor tasks in Butte. Skuletich said the program has been working well, and he hopes to collaborate more with county judges to keep the Detention Center numbers down. He also hopes some action this legislative session will “give some relief,” too.
In 2019, Skuletich said the department is also looking at getting cameras that record what goes on in their public police lobby, versus the current cameras that just act as a digital window for dispatchers into the waiting area afterhours. He said Butte police wanted to make this upgrade last year but ran out of funds. After the active shooter incident last week, Skuletich said there’s even more reason to get recording cameras in the public space in case something happens.
Butte police weren’t the only ones comparing law enforcement data between 2017 and 2018 — Montana Highway Patrol Captain Josh Brown said he started looking at his Butte and Helena district's 2018 crash data, too.
According to the year’s unofficial fatality statistics for District 3, Brown said the number of traffic deaths tracked by MHP is significantly down.
“The decrease is at least in part due to proactive patrols, speed and seat belt enforcement,” Brown said.
The overall state fatality number is down slightly too, Brown said. But after looking over the data, he said in over 50 percent of District 3’s fatalities, the person wasn’t wearing a seat belt.
“Not wearing a seat belt is a significant contributing circumstance,” Brown said.
Brown hasn’t received the crime or arrest data for District 3 yet. But he said in 2019, he wants to focus on assigning crash prevention units out to specific problem areas once a week or every other week, to bring the district back up to full force, as they are down one trooper, and address both intoxicated driving and driving without a seat belt.
“We want to continue to keep our highways safe, to put out DUI patrols and look for unrestrained drivers,” Brown said.
Both Brown and Skuletich not only recapped the year in crime, but also talked about the start of Butte crime in 2019: New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Between 1 a.m. on Dec 31 and midnight on Jan. 1, Skuletich said there were three DUI arrests made by Montana Highway Patrol, bringing 2019’s total arrests to 10. At the start of 2018, there were also three DUI arrests, but roughly 20 total arrests.
According to Brown, this year there was an extra team of MHP troopers in Butte over the New Year holiday to help make traffic stops and look for drivers under the influence, a team that travels all over the state to help enforce sober driving and using seat belts.
However, he said he thinks there probably would have been more intoxicated drivers out if the temperatures hadn’t been so extreme.