KALISPELL, Mont. - Officials held a unique community meeting Thursday in Kalispell to combat the growing problem of prescription drug abuse.
Local law enforcement and federal drug agents told the crowd the addiction is fueling a property crime rate in the Flathead that's among the highest in the state.
We talked with the Kalispell police chief and residents about the issue of prescription drug abuse and how it relates to the rise in property crimes the Flathead is experiencing.
"I've encountered some theft of my own vehicle. People stealing and pawning stuff for drugs," Michael Thompson said.
According to Police Chief Roger Nasset the drug problem is directly related to the crime rate. "Whether it’s the pills or heroin -- they start stealing, and that's how it affects every one of us," he said. "So you don't have to be an addict, you don't have to know an addict or have a friend that's an addict for this to involve you. Just being a part of this community it does involve you."
Neighborhoodscout.com can show you the crime rates of any city in the U.S. The site reports Kalispell has lower violent crimes but higher property crimes compared to the rest of Montana.
The statistics show 1 in 15 will be the victim of a property crime -- that's more than twice as likely as the rest of Montana.
"I thought here was like this little no-crime area, but it's eye-opening," Mistina Romeyn said.
"I can see that, yeah, especially where I live. I definitely see a lot of drug abuse and theft," Trent Fouquet said.
Many blame the lack of jail space, and Nasset agrees.
"That's the only way you're going to fix it, because, hey, I could rob this place, and I just get cited and still get to go home at the end of the day, and that's it," Thompson said.
"Were dealing with these individuals over and over again. They’re stuck in their cycle of using drugs and needing to find more, so they are stealing; we arrest them but can't put them into jail, so they go right back out and do what they were doing as soon as we let them go," Nasset said.
Nasset says they have three solutions in mind to fix the problem -- building a bigger jail, more treatment options and adding education. He added they have to use all three of those resources together to fix the issue, because one alone just won't do it.