BILLINGS – Law enforcement dismantled a burglary in South Billings on Wednesday.
This group of thieves have worked hard to steal anything from Billings, but it’s not unique to Magic City.
Shanna Swigert, of East Helena, was planning a camping weekend planned by her family last Tuesday.
As she was packing supplies, she noticed that her family’s car and side-by-side trailer weren’t in their driveway. She said she called her husband and, after realizing neither of them had touched it, reported it to local police that it had been stolen.
Swigert then asked his friends on Facebook to keep an eye out for his easily recognizable side-by-side.
“You know (it’s) very recognizable,” Swigert said. “The guy we got 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 from Martinsdale who said he saw her side by side on security cameras and that the man driving her stole gasoline from her.
“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 home and my belongings that are working tough,” Swigert explained. She said it hurt even more because her family really enjoyed spending time outdoors 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 continue stealing other people’s stuff.
Shanna was shocked on Wednesday when the Lewis and Clark sheriff’s office informed 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 that his trailer was missing. After a few phone calls, he concluded it must have been robbed.
The man wished 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 asked his employees to follow the truck and leave the site to follow them.
They eventually tracked the men to a property on Sugar Avenue across from the Billings School District 2 bus stop. A Yellowstone County official was driving down the road, so the contractor dropped him.
The contractors said the men left as soon as they saw the officer. A suspect was arrested, but one of the suspects managed to evade police, according to Yellowstone County Sheriff Lind.
On the property, the contractor found three lawn mowers stolen from his trailer. He explained that he was disgusted seeing all the stolen items in the possession of these thieves, and that he felt completely violated by what he had to go through.
According to Lt. Rennick of the Billings Police Department, 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 a salvaged ATV was allegedly stolen in 2017.
The Billings Police Department is working to reunite the items with their rightful owners.
While many of the victims in the story had happy endings, the entrepreneur felt the experience left him emotionally wounded.
He explained that these thefts have a ripple effect on small business owners like him.
“When our belongings are stolen, we cannot provide the service the community needs. Then we have to provide that service, but we have to replace the equipment,” he said.
The entrepreneur believes that when the community discovers something unusual, they should come together and speak out.
“These people are a threat to society. They create chaos in our communities, how can we stop it? We can’t, unless we come together and stay strong enough knowing that we are stronger than them as a whole,” he said. “If people see something that doesn’t look right, please report it. The worst that can happen is a false alarm.
He thanked law enforcement for their quick response and attention to the case, but remains appalled at what he had to go through.
Shanna Swigert also thinks the trauma of the whole ordeal may never leave her.
“I don’t think of anything until the car has passed. But now, when the car passes, especially at night, it’s a bit anxious,” says Swigert. “I have to sit and wait to see if they pass or if they’ll stop in my driveway.”
Swigert also said she is now taking extra precautions to protect her property. She thinks anyone who owns toys like ATVs should buy the Apple AirTag, which tracks articles about 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 15 years and we’ve never had any interruptions,” Swigert said. “I was mostly angry at first, just a little wondering. Why? Why us? But I don’t think we’ll ever know.