Crime on Missoula's westside: A look inside the boiling conflict

As ABC FOX Montana's continues to explore the crime that is growing in Missoula's Westside neighborhood, Angela Marshall begins our five-day series of stories by examining the conflict that has been boiling between Missoulians and those, who are repeatedly committing these bad behaviors.

With the Poverello Center, Missoula's only homeless shelter, in the area, it's no secret that the West Broadway corridor is 'ground zero.'

That's where she talked to people who say they are fed up with the garbage, illegal camping, drug paraphernalia, damage and theft, and have been for some time.

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Just one year ago in May, Missoula Search and Rescue were called to the scene of a river rescue. 
A man, who was living in a camp under the Reserve Street bridge, had to be evacuated due to flooding.


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December 2018, Missoula firefighters responded to a vehicle fire on Industrial Road.
 A family living in their RV started the fire to stay warm.


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In February, two men were arrested for spray-painting anti-semitic graffiti on a Missoula hotel.
 Both men were cited for criminal mischief.
Both men were reportedly homeless.
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"When we came in, we cleaned up sleeping bags and bags," said Kim West, the Co-owner/Operator of Tia's Big Sky when ABC FOX Montana spoke to her back in April. "And people are sleeping here."

The West Broadway restaurant owner told us that she was fearful for the health and safety of her patrons, her staff and herself.

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And today, the problems continue for Kim West and Kari Britain, co-owners/operators of Tia's Big Sky.

Britain says, "We find needles, periodically, in the landscape beds."

When Angela caught up with Britain on her recent tour of the West Broadway corridor, she says that she's a compassionate person.

But knowing people have been engaging in suspicious activities and bathing in the bathrooms, she and west had to do something.

"We put a permanent lock on the door and they have to ask for the key now," Britain adds, "Because people would go in there and they would spend a half-an-hour."

She tells Angela that along the adjacent Hawthorne Street, campers have been congregating, creating lots of litter and attracting drug deals.

Extra police patrols and security fencing have helped to soften the situation, says HOA President and Homeowner of 'Off Broadway Condos,' Pat Montgomery.

"There was a thoroughfare between the homeless shelter," he says. "They would cut through this parking lot. And then, there would be a lot of activity in our parking lot. Some of it would spill over into our private area."

He manages tenants in 35 units; a property that's been an inviting boulevard for bad behavior.

Montgomery says, "We did have problems with units being entered and sleeping on our patios and theft. And the ground floor is mostly elderly and disabled. And that makes them the most vulnerable."

"Drugs seem to be a big one," adds the manager of the Mountain Valley Inn, Bryan Hindman. "We'll find needles in the parking lots."

Down the road, Mountain Valley Inn Manager Bryan Hindman leads Angela to where people have been taking shelter in the hotel's stairwell, one of *several* areas seeing problems on the premise.

"They'd be sleeping under the stairs and you can take the stairs all the way up to the third floor landing. That's where I'd find them sleeping," Hindman adds.

And if they weren't there, he knew they had been.

He says, "The majority of time they've probably urinated or defecated back there. So we have to get in there. We have to clean it up immediately."

Clean up and repeat.

"I think part of our problem as a community is we ignored it too long," Hindman expresses to Angela. "We ignored the homeless situation too long."

Montgomery adds, "I think we want to make Missoula hospitable to people who want to try and improve their lives. For those who come here and they want to continue the drugs and alcohol and get free meals, I don't think those are the kind of people we want to go out of our way to bring into the community."

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A neighborhood watch program has been put in place, where these people have been watching out for each other and reporting any suspicious behavior to Missoula police.

Missoula police have also added extra patrols in the area.

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Tuesday night, Ben will speak to those individuals, who are getting the blame.

He finds out what life is like searching for food, shelter and money every minute of every day.

He speaks to several individuals, who don't like to be referred to as "transients." They're people.

Ben will share their stories and that of a man who has been dedicating his services as a Missoula police officer to get them help.

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You can weigh in on this topic.

Have you witnessed or even experienced this bad behavior? Do you suggestions on solutions? Do you have questions for Missoula's city leaders?

Join the conversation here.

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