2016 Crime Report: Felonies continue to rise

(Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 of a two-part series. Part 2 will focus on violence in relationships.)

Felonies continue to rise in Miles City, said Police Chief Doug Colombik, reflecting on the city’s 2016 crime statistics. 

In 2012 there were 57 felony cases filed (many contained multiple felonies) in the city, but by 2016 those numbers had nearly doubled to 110. The city is currently on a pace to eclipse the 2016 total, with 52 felony cases filed as of May 1.

“The courts are way busy,” Colombik said.  

He said the police department is also responding to a lot more reports involving violence, and said the problem is partly the cause of drug use. “Substance abuse a lot of times is a contributing factor,” he said.

Last year there were 25 sexual assault cases filed. Also there were 19 stalking and 51 violations of orders of protection, which goes along with the increasing violence in relationships. (See Part 2 in Wednesday’s Miles City Star.)

Drugs are a factor in the majority of thefts, child endangerment cases and sex crimes, the chief said.

The increase in drug cases has resulted in a corresponding increase in seizures of property. Colombik said property seizures from drug cases are climbing and it could be a record year for seizures.

His office is processing drug evidence “constantly,” he said.

Abuse of pain pills and morphine is also high in Miles City.

In the early 1990s there were a few major drug dealers in the area and now there are a large number of dealers all over town.

Colombik’s detective and captains are constantly typing search warrants, and spend a lot of their time working narcotics cases.

With the drug abuse increase comes an increase in thefts.

“It’s just a vicious cycle and it won’t slow down,” Colombik said. “It can be a circus; some days are just crazy here. There’s not a slow day here anymore.”

Last year saw a decrease in driving under the influence arrests because in 2015 there was more coverage on the street. Colombik explained that typically younger officers are more aggressive in the DUI patrols.

Last year there were 23 dog bite calls, down from 32 the year before. 

“We have a lot of dogs and cats and a lot of dogs that run loose, so we have a lot of animal issues,” he said. 

Overall there were 453 animal complaints last year, which includes barking dog complaints, dogs at large and dog bites.

Suicide attempts remain high. Last year there were 40 suicidal subjects reported, compared to 39 the year before.

Colombik remembers a time in 2003 when there were three attempts in six days.

Despite the increasing crime, Miles City was voted one of the Top 10 safest cities in Montana, according to  a news release from SafeWise, which used the FBI Crime Report to compile its rankings.

SafeWise listed Miles City as eighth in the state, with Colstrip listed as the safest.

““We’re busy here but it’s still a safe place to live. The towns we were compared to have the same problems we do. Miles City is still a very safe place to live, in our opinion, and we try to keep it that way,” Columbik said.