A Billings Police Department program that was once focused on downtown businesses to deter trespassing, is now available to businesses city-wide.
The Billings Trespass Enforcement Program allows officers with the Billings Police Department to issue a trespass warning, court summons, or when necessary, an arrest, even if the property owner or business manager is not present.
The Billings Police Department expanded the program with businesses in mind that experience gatherings after-hours.
“If someone is issued a trespass warning at night, they can’t go there to shop during the day. So it adds a level of accountability,” said Patrol Sgt. Brad Mansur with the Billings Police Department.
If an officer sees a group or person using the business property for activities like car burnouts, or any other activity not related to the business, the program’s agreement allows an officer to act without contacting on-call staff.
“Officers will always use discretion on what they think the best solution for that problem that day is. If this is the first time we’ve encountered the person on that property, we’ll issue them a trespass warning, they’ll be escorted off the property and are free to leave. The next time they’re found on the property, and they already have this order and they’ve already been warned, they’re going to be issued a summons into court for trespassing,” explained Sgt. Mansur.
Currently, businesses not signed up for the program need to contact law enforcement when someone is unlawfully on their property. When an officer arrives, the business owner or manager needs to request the person receive a trespass warning and be escorted off the property.
“They have to initiate the phone call and let us know they don’t approve of the person’s presence. But if they’re busy, we’ll never get a phone call and it’s just going to continue happening,” Sgt. Mansur explained.
The police department will use its existing software to identify which businesses are part of the program.
To participate in the program, business owners or managers need to read the guidelines and fill out a form.
To read the guidelines, click here. To view and download the form, click here.
Interested businesses are asked to do things like post a “no loitering” sign and cooperate with the prosecution process.
The order is good for one year and can be renewed annually.
“We know businesses change hands. Managers and employees come and go, and so in three years, if I’m writing an order on somebody, there’s no guarantee the manager who signed the paperwork is still around, and therefore, we don’t have a valid victim,” Sgt. Mansur said.
Sgt. Mansur previously served as a downtown resource officer, which is where the program began.
Launched at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, roughly 30 downtown businesses signed up for the program.
“In the downtown area we’ve been using it for two years with good results,” said Sgt. Mansur.
Businesses signed up for the program are notified if any action is taken by officers.
The program does not include residential properties or apartments.