by Travis Mateer
I had already begun reassessing my opinion of a specific private security firm before listening to Pat Montgomery describe his deep appreciation for how patrols in the neighborhood around the Poverello Center lessened the criminal behavior that had been causing YEARS of concern for those who live in proximity to the homeless shelter I used to work at on West Broadway.
Since I’m NOT enthusiastic about having to consider being wrong about something I felt so righteously RIGHT about, I did a mental inventory to determine what, exactly, I found so problematic about the contract Rogers International had with the city to provide security around the Poverello Center and surrounding neighborhoods, and that is the fact WE WERE NOT TOLD about the extent of the geography being covered by this security firm.
It was this failure to communicate to the public that ultimately led to suspicions from myself and some other people living on the Northside about what was actually happening with a city-funded contract for private security.
To understand this time period, you have to ALSO understand that I was working on the documentary Engen’s Missoula, which is about how Tax Increment Financing was being thrown around to rich developers, like Nick Checota, so it was unsettling to have private security constantly parked on the street where my main documentary collaborator lived without knowing WHY they were parked there.
After the news broke in February of 2022 about how private security patrols were being used in the surrounding neighborhoods, a damage-control effort by city officials ensued. I wrote this post the following month, after speaking with the principal of Lowell School, showing how few people seemed to know about the extend of these patrols, including the principal of the elementary school.
Here’s a quote from the NBC Montana article that I would have resisted believing was accurate at the time:
Rogers has been patrolling these areas since September, and so far president of operations David Pritchard says they have seen some success.
“I would say definitely if anyone was to drive by that area and look at it, it’s quite a bit different than it was three to four months ago,” Pritchard said.
We sat down with Pritchard, who says they have been successful in limiting some of the chaos that surrounds Montana’s largest homeless shelter.
But in our sit-down interview, he says success hasn’t come from the use of force.
“We build relationships, so if a couple of people are ready to fight out in the street, we are able to go up talk to them, separate them and mitigate that situation so PD doesn’t need to be called,” Pritchard said.
It’s not just the claims about the POSITIVE impact experienced by Pat Montgomery and his neighbors, thanks to the patrols, that shifted my thinking on Rogers International (RI), it was ALSO a conversation with a young homeless man I know that convinced me to reassess my opinions and how they were formed. This young man is VERY challenging to deal with, especially when escalated (and/or on meth), so I was impressed to hear that the head of RI put himself as the point-of-contact for this client because he had established the best repoire with him. I guarantee this relationship absolutely DID prevent calls to police for assistance.
I have since talked directly with RI’s David Pritchard and it was an incredibly illuminating conversation for a number of reasons I won’t get into here. Instead, here’s a tweet:
To further emphasize this failure, which is a SHARED failure by BOTH city officials AND local media, take a look at what Holly Michels tweeted earlier today. For context, here’s her role within local media:
Yep, this is the HEAD of the Montana State News Bureau, which makes this tweet even MORE impressive to me:
I agree with Holly Michels, this is actually a drug hub and working kitchen LARPing as a refuge for poor, desperate campers with NOWHERE ELSE TO GO. It’s encouraging to see someone in the Montana media information-sphere acknowledge reality.
Later today, after this posts, I’ll be attending the committee meeting where the emergency ordinance to deal with urban camping is being discussed. Here’s a screen-shot of a portion of the referral for this emergency ordinance (emphasis mine):
How will this play out? I don’t know, but stay tuned for my coverage, which I’ll post tomorrow. Will I make public comment today? Of course, and I’m even going to attempt to provide a productive suggestion about something relatively simple that COULD be done to help with this all-around breakdown in effective communication.
If you appreciate my work, Travis’ Impact Fund (TIF) is one way to support me, and making a donation at my about page is another.
Thanks for reading!
Hey, that’s the West Side! West Side Park? right next to Lowell.
Anyway, I hate walking through that meth camp. But it’s part of a perfect walking loop from my condo and going under the bridge saves me crossing the street.
I’m carrying. Am I being a ninny?
Btw wheelchair guy is under the north Russell bridgehead now.
Hey thanks for the shout out! Much appreciated!
Also, you called it there should have been better communication about it.