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Billings police report nearly 200 weapons stolen from vehicles in 2023

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Posted at 5:38 PM, Jan 23, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-24 13:58:25-05

Nearly 200 weapons were stolen out of Billings vehicles in 2023, Billings police said this week, which typically leads to more violent crimes in the area.

Those numbers represent a growing problem for the city's public safety as suspects try opening the unlocked doors of homes and vehicles.

Lockwood resident Laurie Welch caught a couple of suspects in the act this past week, when her surveillance video captured three men standing out her door, seemingly trying to get inside. A couple different times, one of the suspects is seen opening the screen door when he hears noises through her Ring doorbell camera.

"I was on edge definitely," Welch said of her emotions after telling the men to leave her property. "If I didn't have this Ring camera and I came to the door, it would've been a much different situation, I'm sure."

Just a few months ago, nearby to Welch's home, it was a much different story. Brassar McCabe confronted a group of teens who were trying to break into his vehicle and was shot multiple times. According to McCabe's family, he is currently paralyzed from the waist down and still working towards recovery in a Colorado hospital.

"It's sad," Welch said of the violent crime over the past year. "I just hope people get more prepared and get security cameras like mine."

Cases like McCabe's are a big portion of what keeps community service officers such as Amanda Newell busy. She said they received weapons theft calls far too frequently in 2023.

"I would say last month and before, we were getting them almost daily," Newell said. "Sometimes, I would say we even had multiple calls a day."

Newell said these thefts typically become hers and the other community service officers' responsibility, as long as there aren't any potential suspects named in the case. She said they are kept pretty busy looking at surveillance video of thefts.

"Everybody is just doing a crime of opportunity," Newell said. "They're just trying doors, going around town and checking doors. If they can open the door and steal what they have inside, then that's what they are doing."

According to numbers provided by Billings Police Lt. Matthew Lennick, in a year-long span from Dec. 1, 2022 to Dec. 1, 2023, there were a total of 690 cases of theft from vehicles. During that time, 177 of those cases involved stolen weapons.

And that's why Newell, and other law enforcement officers are advising Billings residents to make sure to lock their doors.

"We just try to tell people make sure you're not leaving your weapons in your car," Newell said. "Even if whatever you're doing only takes five minutes, they can steal quicker than that."

Advice that Welch will certainly be taking to heart.

"Now, I'm going to have my cameras on, my doors locked and lot more things tightened up," Welch said.

(Editor's Note: One of the men in the video at Welch's home contacted Q2 News and said he was not attempting to break into the home but had mistakenly knocked on the wrong door looking for a friend.)