BILLINGS — Law enforcement busted a burglary in South Billings on Wednesday.

This group of thieves has been working hard to steal anything from Billings, but it’s not unique to the Magic City.

Shanna Swigert, from East Helena, was making some preparations for a weekend camping trip planned by her family last Tuesday.

While packing up supplies, she noticed her family’s side-by-side car and trailer were not in their driveway. She said she called her husband and, after realizing none of them had touched it, reported it to local police that it was stolen.

Swigert then asked her friends on Facebook to keep an eye out for her easily recognizable side-by-side.

“You know (it’s) very recognizable,” Swigert said. “The guy we got it had a custom paint job on the door.”

Within an hour, Swigert explained, her post received dozens of shares. She said she was contacted by a man in Martinsdale who said he saw her side-by-side on security cameras and that the man driving it had stolen gas from him.

“You know there’s a lot of emotion involved. There’s anger, and I’m scared, and I feel like it’s an invasion of my hard-working home and possessions,” Swigert explained. She said it hurt even more because her family really enjoyed spending time outdoors together side by side.

Over the next week, Swigert would see her posted side-by-side on Facebook, caught on security cameras. Thieves use it to keep stealing other people’s stuff.

Shanna was shocked Wednesday when the Lewis and Clark Sheriff’s Office notified her that they had found her side-by-side in Billings.

Unfortunately, it’s not just Shanna and her family who are affected by these thieves.

On Wednesday morning, a Billings contractor arrived at his job site to find his trailer was missing. After a few phone calls, he concluded that it must have been stolen.

The man wanted to remain anonymous for his own safety as the investigation is still ongoing.

After reporting the incident to police, the man said he received a frantic call from an employee.

He found the trailer – but it was being towed by two people in a truck.

The man instructed his employees to follow the truck and leave the job site to follow them.

They eventually followed the men back to a property on Sugar Avenue, across from the bus stop in Billings School District 2. A Yellowstone County official happened to be driving down the road, so the contractor dropped him.

Map of the area where the stolen property was found, on Sugar Avenue in Billings South.

The contractors said the men took off as soon as they saw the officer. One suspect was arrested, but one of the suspects managed to escape from police, according to Yellowstone County Sheriff Lind.

On the property, the contractor found three stolen lawn mowers in his trailer. He explained that he was disgusted by seeing all the stolen items in the possession of these thieves, and that he felt utterly violated by what he had to go through.

According to Billings Police Department Lt. Rennick, the property was filled with stolen items, from trailers to trucks to ATVs.

While the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office assisted with the initial arrest and investigation, the case is now being handled by the Billings Police Department, according to Sheriff Lind.

Sheriff Lind also said that a recovered ATV was reportedly stolen in 2017.

The Billings Police Department is working to reunite the items with their rightful owners.

While many of the story’s victims had a happy ending, the contractor felt the experience left him emotionally wounded.

He explained that these thefts have a knock-on effect on small business owners like him.

“When our stuff is stolen, we can’t provide the service that the community needs. Then, we need to provide that service, but we have to replace the equipment,” he said.

The contractor believes that when the community finds something unusual, they need to come together and speak out.

“These people are a threat to society. They are creating chaos through our communities, how do we stop it? We can’t, unless we come together and stay strong enough knowing we are stronger than them as a whole,” he said . “If people see something that doesn’t seem right, please report it. The worst that will happen is a false alarm.”

He thanked law enforcement for their prompt response and their attention to the case, but remains appalled by what he had to go through.

Shanna Swigert also believes that the trauma of the whole ordeal may never leave her.

“I don’t think about anything until the car drives by. But now, when the car drives by, especially at night, it’s a little bit anxious,” explains Swigert. “I have to sit and wait to see if they drive by or if they’re going to stop in my driveway.”

Swigert also said she is now taking extra care in protecting her belongings. She believes that everyone who owns toys such as ATVs should buy the Apple AirTag, which tracks items on other Apple products like iPhones and MacBook computers.

Swigert explained that the AirTags can be placed in a hidden location so they can’t be easily spotted, and the battery lasts about six months.

“I take it for granted that it’s going to be there, we’ve been here for 15 years and we’ve never had any interruptions,” Swigert said. “I was mostly angry at first, just a little bit wondering. Why? Why us? But I don’t think we’ll ever know.”

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