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Westby vandalism, crime needs witnesses

Posted 8/04/15 (Tue)

By John D. Taylor
Westby, Mont., population about 185, sits about 30 miles equidistant between two county seats in two different states -- Divide in N.D., and Sheridan, in Montana.
This quirk of geography puts Westby in sort of a no-man’s land when it comes to law enforcement. It takes officers dispatched from either county seat about half an hour to reach Westby.
During the last year, the Westby area has seen a rash of crimes – vandals moving or shooting out windows on large equipment belonging to both oil companies and farmers; vandals shooting up a communications equipment box; two incidents involving illegal wildlife killings, one with seagulls near a sportsmen’s club, another with pelicans in the wetlands nearby.
So what’s being done?
According to Divide County Sheriff Lauren Throntveit, most of these crimes have been solved.
The pelican shooting case, for example, resulted in wildlife and other charges against three men from Williston, he said.
“But until someone says something about the others, there’s not much we can do,” Throntveit said. “Until someone comes out and speaks up, we won’t know.  Someone hearing or seeing something can help out and stop this.”
Throntveit called the crimes, especially the vandalism, “random,” and believes most were perpetrated by oilfield workers going to and from Williston.
“How do we catch them, unless someone says something?” he asked. “We can’t patrol in the middle of everything. It’s not practical.”
Vandalism is something that happens all over, Throntveit said. When large equipment gets involved, it gets into a high dollar amount.
Road signs are a good example, he said.
Divide County spends $10,000 annually to replace damaged – usually shot up – road signs at a cost of about $25 per sign.
Throntveit also said his department handles many wildlife violations.
Divide and Sheridan law enforcement personnel have no problem working together, Throntveit said, and do so frequently. However, without tips from local people, their work is much more difficult.
If anyone knows anything about recent incidents near Westby, including shooting up the communications box, the Divide County Sheriff’s office would like to know about it. Call (701) 965-6461 if you can help.