Council tables investigator job

By ELAINE FORMAN             Star Staff Writer

A request to add a full-time investigator to be shared by the City of Miles City and Custer County, with two-thirds of the position paid for by the county (a third by the sheriff’s office and a third by the county), died for lack of a motion at the Miles City Council meeting March 22.

At times a council person will make a motion, just to be able to discuss the matter, even though he or she is not in favor of it. 

On this night, however, council members asked no questions and gave no reasons. They just looked around or down, or shook their heads no.

Mayor John Hollowell still gave Custer County Attorney Wyatt Glade an opportunity to give his presentation.

Glade said the position was first developed in 2005 but was not filled. 

He said that at the time he didn’t think it was needed, but now he does. 

“There’s been a dramatic increase of crime in Custer County,” he said, adding that the investigator would help the patrol officers. 

One thing he would like is for one person to handle all of the search warrants. He said sometimes an officer who works nights may have handled the search warrants, then it is difficult to catch up with that officer. Places like Verizon won’t release information except to the person who applied for the search warrant, so the information is harder to get.

This happened with the recent homicide investigation involving suspect Scott Price. 

The extra person also would help with the manpower. The homicide investigation used “almost all of our available resources,” he said, adding that officers were working 16- and 20-hour days.

Custer County had 66 felony filings in district court in 2013, which increased to 102 in 2015. He said the only reason the number isn’t 110 or 120 was because the homicide occurred in December and took so much time that other crimes had to be filed later.

“What I am trying to tell you is the situation is very dire. We have an increase in crime here in Custer County. When there is an increase in crime, we need to allocate more resources, prevention and prosecution,” Glade said.

He said most of the crimes are direct drug charges or related to drugs, especially involving methamphetamines. 

“We are seeing more methamphetamines, we are seeing more violent crimes,” he said.

Recent charges of aggravated assault, burglary and solicitation of prostitution are often the result of drug addiction.

He added that 17 of the 26 neglected and dependent filings (child abuse and neglect cases) are drug related. 

He asked for the council to reconsider.

Hollowell, Custer County Commissioner Kevin Krausz (a former Miles City police officer and chief) and Police Chief Doug Colombik also spoke in favor of the request. 

Colombik said, “Obviously we need the help. We’re just very busy right now. … We’re at the point where I don’t think it’s going to go back to normal. We are going to see an elevated rise.”

“It’s just a different culture we’re dealing with than what we saw five, six years ago,” he added.

Krausz said the commissioners passed the request unanimously that this was needed.

Council member John Uden said he wanted to voice some concerns. Hollowell said a motion was needed, but Uden would not make a motion.