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Havre Police narrow search on crime spree


Last updated 2/3/2019 at 12:37am

Havre Daily News/Ryan Berry

Glass from a broken-out window lies in a car in Havre Monday. Law enforcement reports a surge in car thefts and vandalism in the area in January.

Local law enforcement says crime is on an upswing in the area including a surge in car thefts.

In the past month, the Havre Police Department has received 11 reports of vehicle theft. Havre Police Chief Gabe Matosich said that is more than a third of the total vehicle thefts in the previous year, making it one of the largest crime sprees in the past five years.

"I have a feeling that it's the same group of individuals that are doing this," Matosich said Thursday. "In the past, and with our experiences, that is what we find, is typically the same group of individuals doing it."

He added that even though the majority of the vehicle thefts may be related, there are a few that may be individual cases.

He said the department is also looking at Fabian Joel "Ju Ju" Saddler Jr., 19 - who was arrested Tuesday by the Hill County Sheriff's Office on suspicion of committing a ring of thefts including burglaries at Frontline Ag Solutions and E-1 Towing - as a suspect for some of the vehicle thefts.

Matosich said the police have some pretty good leads and information and are narrowing the search.

Hill County Sheriff Jamie Ross said it is critical that people work together to make the community safer.

Matosich said people should not ignore suspicious activity and should call 911, the police department at 265-4941, the sheriff's office at 265-2512 or Havre-Hill County Crime Stoppers at 265-4444.

Community members really need to pay attention with what is going on in their neighborhoods, he said.

Matosich said that the department has recovered eight of the 11 vehicles recently reported stolen. Some of them have been vandalized before recovery.

He added that the vehicles have been recovered across the county and the recovery has no particular pattern.

"You really don't know what they are doing with them," Matosich said, "but a lot of the times they just take them for joy rides, or to get from point A to point B, or doing their drug trafficking in them, or who knows what."

Vandalism includes broken windows and Matosich said that, in one case, the perpetrator had been spray painting the vehicle in an attempt to change its color. A vehicle recovered Wednesday night was undamaged, he added.

Matosich said that in 2018 a total of 32 vehicles were reported stolen, which was a 4 percent rise from the previous year. Comparing month-to-month 10 more vehicles were stolen this January compared to last January.

Other thefts in the same time span increased more than 50 percent, he said.

The department experienced a similar crime spree about five or six years ago, he said.

The recent spree, Matosich said, apparently has no gang affiliation and is most likely a group of local people.

Alongside the recent vehicle thefts, he said, the department is also seeing a rise in drug crimes. Drugs are involved in every crime investigated, Matosich said.

"Just every day it seems like we have another arrest or charging someone with a drug crime or come across methamphetamines," he added.

Statewide, he said, the drug crime rate has decreased 5 percent from 2017 to 2018, although Havre that same year experienced a 2 percent increase.

Matosich said he suspects in January of this year it has increased even more.

"Every day, we are searching vehicles and residences and that sort of thing," he said.

In order to solve these crimes or prevent them from happening, he said, the department needs the help of the public. He said people need to let them know, acting as the first defense.

Officers are unable to be everywhere at all times and are unable to catch everything, he said, but with the help of the public they can increase their reach.

Matosich added that if people don't want their vehicles or items stolen from their property, house or garage they have to start locking things up.

People should lock their cars at night, lock their doors, secure their windows, or keep an eye on their vehicles as they warm up.

He said a few of the vehicles were stolen while they were idling to warm up.

Despite a recent rash of reports of thefts of tires and firearms, Matosich said that, not including vehicle thefts, the area has seen a decline in the crime rate from 2017 to 2018.

Thefts, not including vehicles, has seen a 24 percent decrease, he said.

Joe Saddler

Burglaries dropped 47 percent, robberies dropped 37.5 percent, aggravated assaults dropped 63 percent and domestic violence, such as partner or family member assault, dropped 18 percent, Matosich said. He added these numbers have decreased dramatically, with domestic abuse thanks to a program at the District 4 Human Resource and Development Council re-educating and helping victims.

He said the department has seen an increase in people arrested for driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, which rose 24 percent.

He added that between the two dispatch centers, the department has received 24,678 calls for service, had 1,709 arrests, investigated 1,247 offenses and responded to 305 vehicle crashes in the year of 2018.

Having people report suspicious activity is crucial, Matosich said.

"If something doesn't look right, you know, or something doesn't feel right, give us a call so we can check it out because chances are there is something going on," he said.


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