Montana, the Big Sky Country, indeed has more than just grizzly bears, bone-chilling temperatures in Havre, pickup trucks flaunting gun racks, and Kalispell’s thrilling Friday night rodeos to watch out for. The state also has several cities that are fraught with danger.
Are you pondering whether you reside in one of Montana’s most perilous cities? Before you bolt your doors and reach for your stun gun, we recommend you review RoadSnacks’ compilation of the most treacherous locations in Montana for 2024. Some entries may astonish you.
How did we determine this? We turned to the data. In total, we scrutinized 31 cities, examining the FBI’s most recent crime report for both violent and property crime stats for every locality with more than 2,000 inhabitants. We found that while Montana’s figures for violent and property crime aren’t the country’s highest, there is certainly room for improvement.
If you’re thinking that most of the state’s troubles are concentrated around its largest cities, namely Billings and Missoula, you’re partially correct. However, to be fair, the Treasure State has done a decent job of spreading its issues evenly across the state.
Though Montana may not rank among the top ten most dangerous states in the nation, its most hazardous locales do require attention. Perhaps a larger police force? More surveillance cameras? Enhanced drug rehabilitation programs? We can’t say for sure. But one thing is certain: you should peruse our list of Montana’s most dangerous places before making any life-altering decisions.
The 10 Most Riskiest Places To Reside In Montana For 2024
|Violent Crimes per 100k
|Property Crimes per 100k
Situated along the Yellowstone River in south-central Montana, Billings is a key metropolis in a largely rural state. With its breathtaking natural surroundings and numerous cultural hotspots such as the Yellowstone Art Museum and the Western Heritage Center, it has its share of allure.
However, it also ranks as Montana’s most dangerous city due to its elevated property crime rates, which include burglaries, robberies, and auto thefts. Alarmingly, the city of 110,157 also experienced 14 homicides in the past year.
- Population: 110,157
- Violent Crimes Per 100k: 852
- Property Crimes Per 100k: 4,765
2. Ronan City
Located in the northwest region of Montana within the Flathead Indian Reservation, Ronan is a small city of only 2,141 people but has a disturbingly high crime rate on a per-capita basis. With 66 property crimes and 20 violent crimes reported in one year, it earns its place as the second most dangerous city in Montana.
- Population: 2,141
- Violent Crimes Per 100k: 934
- Property Crimes Per 100k: 3,082
Known to every grade-schooler as the political capital of Montana, Helena also sadly holds the title for the state’s capital of rape. With a population of 33,629, the city reported 50 rapes in one year, the highest rate in the state. Helena also saw 216 violent crimes and 1,227 property crimes in the same period.
- Population: 33,629
- Violent Crimes Per 100k: 642
- Property Crimes Per 100k: 3,648
Located in the Flathead Indian Reservation in the northwestern part of Montana, Polson is a small town that faces significant safety issues. With 164 property crimes and 36 violent crimes reported in one year, the town ranks as the fourth most dangerous place in Montana.
- Population: 5,115
- Violent Crimes Per 100k: 703
- Property Crimes Per 100k: 3,206
Nestled in north-central Montana along the Milk River, Havre, despite its French name, has its roots as a rugged American railroad town. However, with escalating property crime and violent crime rates, this town of 9,820 faces significant safety issues, reporting 57 assaults in the past year.
- Population: 9,820
- Violent Crimes Per 100k: 712
- Property Crimes Per 100k: 3,054
6. Cut Bank
The adage “small is beautiful” isn’t always true. Take Cut Bank, Montana as an example. Despite being a small settlement with only 3,075 inhabitants, it ranks as the most perilous place in the state.
Situated around 30 miles from the Canadian border, Cut Bank derives its name from a nearby canyon. Yet, this name may also insinuate a more sinister reality: the town’s violent undercurrent. In a community of just a few thousand, Cut Bank reported 23 violent incidents, leading to a violent crime rate of 747/100k people, the highest in Montana.
Cut Bank’s record in property crime is slightly better, reporting 78 such crimes during the year, which translates to a rate of 2,536/100k people, making it the ninth most prevalent in the state for property crime.
- Population: 3,075
- Rank Last Year: 1
- Violent Crimes Per 100k: 747
- Property Crimes Per 100k: 2,536
7. Great Falls
Great Falls has a storied history as an industrial and transportation hub in Montana, and it has the state’s 3rd largest population at 58,345. But the more, the merrier isn’t always true, as a larger population also brings problems, and here it’s the highest rate of property crime in Montana.
The city reported 2,999 property crimes annually, equating to a staggering 5,140/100k people. Because of this widespread property crime, Great Falls also ranks as the second most crime-ridden city in Montana, with a crime rate of 5,596/100k people.
However, Great Falls fares a bit better in the area of violent crime, with only 266 instances reported. Consequently, it’s the 12th most violent place in the state.
- Population: 58,345
- Rank Last Year: 3
- Violent Crimes Per 100k: 455
- Property Crimes Per 100k: 5,140
Might seem small with its 76,468 residents when compared to cities like New York or San Francisco, but for Montana, it’s one of the largest. However, size also brings challenges. Notably, Missoula has one of the highest murder rates in Montana.
Over a year, the city recorded 4 murders, part of the total 376 violent crimes. This makes Missoula the city with the highest number of killings in the state. Furthermore, the city also reported 60 rapes in a year.
Property crime is also an issue in Missoula, with 2,745 instances reported, ranking it eighth in burglaries and car thefts. The rate of property crime stands at 3,589/100k people, making it the fourth highest in Montana.
- Population: 76,468
- Rank Last Year: 8
- Violent Crimes Per 100k: 491
- Property Crimes Per 100k: 3,589
9. Wolf Point
Wolf Point, Montana might not be familiar unless you’re a rodeo enthusiast. The city hosts Montana’s oldest rodeo. But visitors should be cautious. Aside from the rodeo, Wolf Point has one of the state’s highest violent crime rates.
The city is the main population center on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in northeastern Montana, and reported 33 violent crimes in a year. This number might seem insignificant, but with a population of only 2,744, it translates to a violent crime rate of 1,202/100k people, the highest in Montana.
However, not all is grim. The property crime rate is comparatively low, standing at 1,931/100k people, making Wolf Point 16th in the state for property-related issues.
- Population: 2,744
- Rank Last Year: 7
- Violent Crimes Per 100k: 1,202
- Property Crimes Per 100k: 1,931
10. East Helena
East Helena is a small town close to Helena, Montana’s capital, situated just 5 miles away. With a population of only 2,113, it ranks as one of Montana’s most hazardous locations.
In one year, East Helena had 50 property crimes and 10 violent crimes. These figures may seem minuscule compared to a metropolis like New York City, but in relation to East Helena’s small population, these numbers signify a crime surge.
Looking at population size, East Helena reported a violent crime rate of 473/100k people and a property crime rate of 2,366/100k people. These statistics place it as the 11th most dangerous place in Montana for both types of crime. This makes East Helena more dangerous than cities like Missoula, Montana, which has more than 30 times the population.
- Population: 2,113
- Rank Last Year: 5
- Violent Crimes Per 100k: 473
- Property Crimes Per 100k: 2,366
Most Horrific Crime Ever Happened in Montana
One of the most shocking crimes in Montana’s history is the case of Nathaniel Bar-Jonah. Bar-Jonah was a convicted child predator who had a long history of offenses in Massachusetts before moving to Montana. In 1999, he was arrested in Great Falls, Montana, for impersonating a police officer and attempting to abduct several children.
The subsequent investigation led to a horrifying discovery. Authorities found evidence in Bar-Jonah’s apartment that suggested he may have killed a missing child, Zachary Ramsay. This evidence included a list of boys’ names, with Ramsay’s appearing to be marked as “died.” Disturbingly, they also found a handwritten cookbook with recipes for dishes like “little boy stew” and “little boy pot pies.”
Although Bar-Jonah was never formally charged with Ramsay’s murder due to lack of concrete evidence, he was convicted in 2002 on charges related to the abuse and attempted abduction of other children. He was sentenced to 130 years in prison without the possibility of parole.
The case shocked and horrified the state of Montana, leading to changes in how sex offenders are tracked and managed. The heinous nature of Bar-Jonah’s crimes and the fear that he may have been a child killer left a lasting impact on the communities he terrorized.
5 Safety Tips for Traveling to Montana
1. Have emergency supplies on hand: As one of the most sparsely populated states in the US, Montana may require you to travel for extended periods without access to necessities.
To avoid any unforeseen circumstances, make sure to pack food, water, and an emergency kit before embarking on your journey.
2. Keep valuables out of sight: If you plan to visit crowded tourist spots like Yellowstone National Park, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and keep track of your valuables.
Leave your valuables at the hotel, and if you have anything valuable in the car, make sure to put them where potential thieves can’t see them.
3. Get travel insurance: Given Montana’s abundant wildlife and harsh weather conditions, it’s advised to get travel insurance, to provide compensation for unforeseen circumstances and offer optimal protection.
4. Bring layers: Due to Montana’s unpredictable weather fluctuations from morning to evening, it is advisable to dress in multiple layers of warm clothing.
5. Let your bank know before leaving: Make sure to inform your bank before departing for Montana, so they are aware of your travel plans and expect any charges to your account.
1. What are some safety measures to take when living in or visiting one of Montana’s most dangerous cities?
When living in or visiting one of Montana’s most dangerous cities, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and take necessary precautions. This includes locking your doors and windows, installing a home security system if possible, and avoiding walking alone at night in unfamiliar areas. It’s also advisable to keep your valuables secure and out of sight, and to be aware of common scams or fraudulent activities. If you’re visiting, research the area beforehand and stay in well-populated areas whenever possible.
2. How does Montana’s crime rate compare to the national average?
As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, Montana’s crime rates are generally lower than the national average, but this can vary significantly depending on the specific city or region. Some cities, like those listed above, have crime rates that are higher than the state and national averages. It’s important to research specific locations for the most accurate and up-to-date information.
3. What is being done to improve safety in most dangerous cities?
Efforts to improve safety in Montana’s most dangerous cities can include increasing police presence, implementing community policing strategies, investing in social services and education, and developing programs to address underlying issues such as poverty and substance abuse. The specific strategies can vary by city and are often influenced by local politics, budget constraints, and community needs.
4. How can residents contribute to improving safety in their communities?
Residents can contribute to improving safety in their communities in several ways. This can include participating in neighborhood watch programs, reporting suspicious activity to the police, and getting to know their neighbors. Residents can also advocate for policies and programs that address underlying issues contributing to crime, such as poverty, lack of education, and substance abuse.
5. What resources are available for victims of crime?
Victims of crime in Montana have access to a variety of resources. This can include victim advocacy services, counseling and mental health services, legal assistance, and financial compensation programs. The Montana Department of Justice has a Division of Victim Services that provides support and resources for crime victims. There are also numerous non-profit organizations that offer support for specific types of crime victims, such as victims of domestic violence or sexual assault.
In conclusion, while Montana is known for its stunning landscapes and outdoor activities, it also faces challenges with crime in certain areas. The state’s most dangerous cities, such as Billings, Ronan, and Helena, have higher rates of violent and property crimes compared to other regions. However, it’s important to note that these statistics can fluctuate and are influenced by a variety of factors, including socio-economic conditions, law enforcement strategies, and community engagement.
The case of Nathaniel Bar-Jonah, a convicted child predator, is a chilling reminder of the potential for horrific crimes even in places known for their tranquility. This case led to significant changes in how sex offenders are managed in the state, highlighting the importance of continuous efforts to improve public safety.