The Missoula County Attorney’s Office filed 11 new criminal complaints this week, which is three less than last week and a little below the weekly average. According to Chief Deputy County Attorney Matt Jennings, eight of those cases were crimes against persons or violent crimes.

“We are continuing to see a trend that we have seen over the last few months,” Jennings said. “We are finally catching up a little bit on COVID where we had a huge spike in crime. Our numbers now are more closely aligned with where they were in 2019 and the beginning of 2020. Unfortunately, what we are seeing of the crimes that are being committed right now, the severity or the violence of them is actually pretty high. I hope we can start getting that down by addressing some of the underlying causes of criminal behavior and making sure our justice system is working, not only to hold people accountable after a crime is committed, but to do what we can to prevent future crimes from being committed as well.”

In addition, Jennings mentioned that they are seeing a lot of fentanyl in Missoula right now.

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“We are having a lot of overdose deaths,” Jennings said. “A lot of people that we have active cases with, we are watching them struggle with addiction and an inability to stop using, are being released in the community and they are dying at an astonishing rate. I probably had several defendants die just in the last month. Everybody else in my office has as well. This is an epidemic not only in our community, but in the state of Montana and nationally as well.”

According to Jennings fentanyl is extremely dangerous and is fifty times more potent than heroin.

“When you’re getting these pills that are made in some factory in Mexico with chemicals from other overseas countries, you have no idea how strong it is or what it is going to do,” Jennings said. “People’s opioid addictions, either from pills or heroin, are transitioning to fentanyl addictions and it is deadly. It is really tragic. I hope our law enforcement can help get these out of our community. We will hold people accountable because of the risks. Sometimes our criminal justice system actually needs to protect people from themselves. I take that very seriously.”

Jennings said he doesn’t want criminal defendants he is prosecuting to die. He wants them to get better and be productive members of society.

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