State sending $2.3M to bolster public safety in Yellowstone County

AJ Etherington

Gov. Greg Gianforte announced Tuesday the state is investing more than $2.3 million to improve public safety and increase economic stability in Yellowstone County.

The Economic Transformation and Stabilization, and Workforce Development Advisory Commission recommended the governor invest $1.5 million in the Office of State Public Defender to bolster staff in the agency to address cases in Yellowstone County. The commission further recommended an $815,000 investment in the Montana Department of Justice to hire criminal agents to help address drug and violent crime in Yellowstone County.

“Over the course of the pandemic, Yellowstone County has seen a significant increase in drug-related and violent crime, threatening both public safety and the vitality of local businesses,” Gianforte said in a press release. “With this investment, the Montana Department of Justice and Office of Public Defender will work alongside the county and city to address public safety concerns and increase economic stability in Yellowstone County.”

The announcement follows local officials, including County Attorney Scott Twito and Billings administrator Chris Kukulski, raising the alarm on the unprecedented crime levels and disproportionate number of department of corrections inmates being supervised in the community.

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