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Gallatin County trailhead break-ins: some arrested, identified as investigations continue

Posted: 8:44 PM, Jun 06, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-06 20:59:26-04

BOZEMAN, Mont. – Cars being broken into at trailheads across the area continue to be a problem.

However, Gallatin County deputies made several arrests connected to break-ins like these over time.

Both the US Forest Service and the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office say the arrests can date back to cases that happened during the winter season.

Other suspects are gradually being identified as the investigations go on.

The Forest Service says knowing how to prevent thefts like these can go a long way.

“We have had some closures and arrests with folks involved in those,” says Mariah Leuschen-Lonergan, public affairs specialist for the Forest Plan Revision, Custer-Gallatin National Forest.

That’s a sign: progress is being made on cases like this that happened at the Kirk Hill trailhead.

That being said, the US Forest Service and deputies across the county are still on the lookout with an uneasy eye.

“The trailhead break-ins that we’ve had based on the number that has been reported recently to us,” Leuschen-Lonergan says. “We actually haven’t seen an increase in the typical numbers that are reported. However, it does appear to be a bit more visible right now.”

It’s easy to get lost in the beauty and nature of many of these trails but that’s also part of the catch.

When you get up one of these trails far enough, you can lose sight of the trailhead and lose sight of your vehicle so stowing your items wherever you can go a long way to stop thieves.

“Think about what it is that you do and don’t need,” Leuschen-Lonergan says. “Take a moment to stow those valuables.”

The Forest Service adds that locking your doors and sharing their caution also make a difference.

Yet, Sheriff Brian Gootkin says thieves will still try.

“This time of year we see it, a lot more activity at the trailheads, therefore, unfortunately, there’s more criminal mischief and thefts,” Gootkin says.

“If you see something, say something,” Leuschen-Lonergan says.

Also, a good idea: hiding your things away from the parking lot.

“Not doing while you are sitting at the trailhead, do it before you get to the trailhead so if someone is in the area, watching, being able to take those steps prior to even getting to the trailhead can really help,” Leuschen-Lonergan says.

Both say don’t let this stop you.

Come prepared.

That way, the trails can still be all yours to explore.

“We’ll be looking for those people, too, and if we can catch them, we will but be safe,” Gootkin says.

One person did tell MTN News that while they were out enjoying these trails, they had thousands of dollars stolen after someone took their credit cards.

The Forest Service says those are just of many things that should be hidden well or not brought to the trails at all if you can help it.