BILLINGS - Criminal investigations into threats of violence in Montana such as terrorism, cybersecurity crimes, and hate crimes as well as drug activity and trafficking continued to increase in 2020.
That’s according to those with the Montana Analysis and Technical Information Center, known as MATIC.
With a nationwide awareness of hate crimes against Asian Americans, state Department of Justice officials say there have been no recent reports of such crimes made to local law enforcement in Montana that have reached MATIC.
Still, officials are watching national crime trends to prepare.
The fusion center, according to Bryan Lockerby with the division of criminal investigations, is composed of a collection of well-trained crime analysts who assist local police agencies across Montana to exchange criminal intelligence information about illegal activity in the state.
In 2020, the fusion center spread 175 tips and leads to law enforcement that needed more in-depth investigation.
But considering the hot political year and the pandemic, Lockerby says anything happening in the national spotlight is a good indication Montana could be in its reach.
“We pay attention,” he said. “For example, the tragic shooting in Boulder, Colorado, recently, the increased number of assaults on Asian Americans going on around the nation.”
While law enforcement has said the Atlanta mass shooting that left six dead was at least partially racially motivated, police have not given a motive in the deadly shooting at a Boulder grocery store.
Lockerby says the center includes well-trained staff, who are good at doing strong police work, issuing critical assessments on human trafficking, illegal drugs coming into the state, cyber crime (especially when hackers attack school districts), and threats involving critical infrastructure.
“We receive reports and details of these events, but then again, as a fusion, we disseminate that information out to local law enforcement so that they are more aware of it, and they're more heightened,” said Lockerby. “Because as we know crime trends change and we want people to be aware of what might be out there.”
Last year those with the Montana Analysis and Technical Information Center responded and helped local agencies during two major events in Philips and Carbon counties.
Lockerby said the center also helped in the recent standoff on I-90 in Stillwater County where U.S. Marshals shot and killed a fugitive from Georgia, wanted for aggravated stalking and making terrorist threats.
Over 50 percent of requests for help come from local police agencies.