BOZEMAN - A series of break-ins at trailheads around the Gallatin Valley is prompting one local man to start taking matters into his own hands.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, a number of vehicles across the Gallatin Valley have been broken into while parked at trailheads. Custer Gallatin National Forest does not generally station cameras at trailheads if there is not an ongoing investigation.
While the crime isn’t necessarily uncommon, what’s more interesting are the Gallatin residents now launching a fundraising effort to install cameras, and hopefully deter more thieves.
Bozemanite Joshua James Miller came up with the idea on Monday, after returning from an ice-fishing trip over the weekend to news of yet another local break-in.
He quickly jumped into action, creating a GoFundMe, reaching out to local hiking groups, and now encouraging others who love the outdoors as much as he does to chip in and buy cameras for trailheads around town.
Miller says he doesn’t blame law enforcement or the Forest Service for the frequent break-ins or the lack of security at trailheads. Once enough money is raised to buy the cameras, he’ll be working with Custer Gallatin officials to make sure the cameras go to the right location around the valley.
“I hike all these trails around town to stay in shape for hunting season and it just… they’re important and they just mean a lot to me,” Miller says, “as they do everyone else here.”
For the moment, Miller’s goal on GoFundMe is $1000, which he estimates will buy two cameras. But he plans to continue growing the project and buying more cameras for trailheads.
Forest Service Law Enforcement Captain Nate Card, who is working with Miller, says this kind of effort is unprecedented. Card has heard that a similar effort happened in the Forest Service Region 8, which covers much of the southern U.S., but he wasn’t aware of a project like Miller’s in this area.
Card says it’s hard to say what trailheads have been broken into the most, but it has been happening throughout the valley.
“It’s just sad to see crime getting worse as we grow as a town, but I think there’s something we can do about it,” Miller adds. “And I think this is one way to take a step in the right direction.”
If he could choose any place to put a camera, Miller says he’d go with the parking lot for Drinking Horse Trail, one of Bozeman’s most popular trails and a personal favorite of Miller’s.
The Forest Service reminds everyone that any private property, including cameras, on public land must be removed within 16 days. Placing private property on private land requires the landowner’s permission.
The Forest Service says the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office, Forest Service, and other agencies are investigating the vandalism and break-ins. Before leaving your car at a trailhead, remember to hide your valuables, lock your car, and always report any suspicious activity.
To donate to Miller’s GoFundMe, click here.