MISSOULA - The Missoula Police Department recently released its second-ever annual report, showcasing trends in crime and what the department is doing. The report shows aggravated assaults doubled from the previous year, but first responders say there's more to the story.
"There's a lot of things being done and a lot of efforts not just from the police department but from all the stakeholders in our community making Missoula a safe place,” noted Missoula Police Department spokeswoman Lydia Arnold.
She told MTN News that an increase in crime can be alarming, “we encourage people to lock their cars, lock their houses. Arnold added that an increase in drug use can also be concerning, “illicit drugs, the methamphetamine epidemic, as well as an increase in domestic violence."
But Arnold says the launch of the Reserve Officer Program is one thing helping to free up officers to respond to calls, "they are able to do things such as court security, security for city council meetings, which means that the patrol officers are able to be out on the streets on patrol."
Arnold says the police department alone can't eliminate violent crime, “we're all part of the puzzle." And there are many pieces to that puzzle — including mental health.
“Seeing that perspective and really thinking of this as a public service and trying to do what's best for humanity is a big part of it,” Mobile Support Team Operations Manager John Petroff explained.
The MPD report shows an increase in calls for service for suicidal people in 2021. Through the Mobile Support Team (MST), trained mental health professionals are able to spend more time on a call — connecting people to resources.
"The average scene time for us is about an hour and 15 minutes, where the average for another responder actually engage with somebody is anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes,” Petroff said.
When it comes to crime, Arnold says there could be a lot of reasons why the numbers have gone up, but she agrees addressing the issue will require a community-based approach.
"We all have to have communication and work together. The police department can't solve it, the prosecuting offices -- they can't solve it,” Arnold said. “So, we have to have good communication and we have to have the resources for the rehabilitation side for people to continue to have support."
Click here to read the full 2021 Missoula Police Department Annual report.