With violent crime on the rise in western Montana,Missoula County Sheriff's Detective Mike Sunderland appeared on Talk Back Tuesday morning to answer questions from listeners about crime in Missoula County.

Sunderland began by addressing the crime issue directly.

“We're seeing a huge spike in our in our local drug use and in the amount of drugs that are being imported into our community,” said Detective Sunderland. “The majority of these crimes that we see have that drug Nexus, so we're just trying to figure out as a law enforcement community, how to combat this, and what's the best way within the system to combat this? I think we're doing our best.”

Sunderland looked at the problem systematically.

“In my opinion, it's a breakdown within the entire system,” he said. “We don't have enough prison space and we don't have enough county jail space. Therefore, prosecutors can't do their job properly. The judges, they've got no place to put these folks and until the community comes together, and I'm saying the entire community within Montana comes together and starts putting pressure on these politicians to allocate monies to address these problems, that it's never going to change.”

Addressing the issue of transients and the homeless population, Sunderland drew on his years of experience in the Sheriff’s Department.

“Just dealing with the homeless population for all these years, I talk to a lot of them, and I’ve established good relationships with a lot of these folks,” he said. “And you know, something that I don't think people understand is the majority of these folks, it's a chosen life, right? They tell me straight out. ‘I choose to live this way’, because they don't want to put up with all the bureaucracy.”

Sunderland ended the hour long conversation on KGVO by encouraging Missoula residents to get involved and help solve the community’s problems from the inside.

“All I can do is encourage people to maybe help become part of the solution and run for office and help change policy, because at the end of the day, we fight the fight every single day. People don't typically see what we do and just know we're out there to protect you guys and to try to rid the streets of the evil but we still need your help to do that.”

Sunderland was named ‘Officer of the Year’ in 2017 by the Missoula Exchange Club.


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