Montana Board of Crime Control

Program Highlights

Montana Board of Crime Control (MBCC) honors criminal justice programs and community-based programs that merit recognition for providing effective services to address public safety-related issues in their communities or statewide. For your program to be considered, please complete the information below and provide any supplemental materials as appropriate. MBCC will highlight at least two programs per year and applications will be archived for future consideration. MBCC will highlight programs with a statewide press release, certificate of recognition, placement of program information on MBCC’s website and attendance scholarship/recognition at the Annual Montana Crime Prevention Conference.


Friends of the Children

2024 Spring Recipient

Friends of the Children

Left to right: Brian Gootkin, Shantelle Gaynor, Katie Weston, Rick Kirn, Ben Davis, Tyler Taylor, Wyatt English, and Brett Schandelson.
The Montana Board of Crime Control presents Friends of the Children with the Certificate of Outstanding Program Award at the 2024 March Board Meeting in Helena, MT. Left to right: Brian Gootkin, Shantelle Gaynor, Katie Weston, Rick Kirn, Ben Davis, Tyler Taylor, Wyatt English, and Brett Schandelson.

In Montana, private philanthropists, behavioral health practitioners, and community leaders recognized that too many children in Montana are in crisis - as demonstrated by our very high rates of youth in foster care, children who are food and housing insecure, and youth who face neglect and abuse. Friends of the Children wanted to support an innovative model of long-term whole-family services that is proven to lift children up from poverty and change long-term health and socio-economic outcomes.

Friends of the Children seeks to disrupt cycles of poverty and trauma in families and empower families to pursue their hopes and dreams and change the way the community and systems view and treat families who live in poverty.

Friends of the Children disrupts cycles of generational poverty and cycles of trauma by pairing amazing children enrolled in the program with full-time, salaried professional mentors (called 'Friends') for 12+ years, no matter what.

Friends-Western Montana launched in 2021. They are part of a 30-year-old national network of Friends of the Children chapters. This year, Friends of the Children will serve 64 families and more than 225 individuals in Missoula and Lake Counties. The national network launched in 1993 with 35 chapters in 22 states.

Friends of the Children serve youth and families who live in poverty, and all of the children served have experienced multiple traumatic events by the time they join the program between the ages of 4-6. 90% of households served are led by single parents. Providing a long-term, consistent, and loving relationship with a positive adult role model helps children build resiliency and self-confidence and greatly improves long-term upstream health outcomes.

Their mentors, which Friends of the Children refers to as “Friends,” are highly experienced youth-centered and trauma-informed professionals. Many of the Friends have advanced degrees and 10+ years’ experience working with children. Each Friend serves 8 youth and spends 4 hours per week with each child, engaging in one-on-one activities and time together in their schools, home, and community that foster positive social emotional growth and healthy connections to adults and their peers and help youth build important life skills.

The program is intentional and individualized as Friends work towards goals for each child that are set by the child, caregiver, and Friend.

Friends of the Children also engage caregivers through their two generation (2Gen) work, which they describe as the 3Cs:

  • Creating community for each family
  • Checking-in regularly
  • Connecting families to resources

The work is evidence-based. Friends of the Children tracks all outings and outcomes in their Efforts to Outcomes Database to allow them to adapt and innovate their services to each family. 

  • 92% of youth enroll in higher education, secure living wage employment, or serve our country in the military.
  • 98% delay parenting despite more than 80% of their parents being teen parents.
  • More than 93% avoid the criminal justice system, despite more than 60% of parents having criminal justice involvement.
  • More than 95% of caregivers in the Friends-Western Montana program reported in their annual survey that they feel supported by the program in navigating public systems (schools, foster care, Medicaid) and are better equipped to make positive parenting choices.

The program is replicable and scalable. Since their launch, more than 10 new chapters have opened nationally, including a sister chapter based in Billings. Friends of the Children have also launched a second program on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Lake County. Their vision is that one day every child in Montana who needs a Friend and is at risk of entering the foster care system will have a Friend.

For more information about Friends of the Children, please visit: 

The Friendship Center

2023 Fall Recipient

The Friendship Center

MBCC Chairman Leo Dutton presents Kim Patterson, Development Direct at The Friendship Center, with the Certificate of Outstanding Program Award at the 2023 September Board Meeting at the Calvert Hotel in Lewistown, MT.
MBCC Chairman Leo Dutton presents Kim Patterson, Development Direct at The Friendship Center, with the Certificate of Outstanding Program Award at the 2023 September Board Meeting at the Calvert Hotel in Lewistown, MT.

The mission of The Friendship Center (TFC) is to be a safe haven for those affected by domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking and to empower our community to flourish in relationships free from violence. 

The Friendship Center was established as a Model City project, funded by President Johnson’s Great Society legislation. It began as a homeless shelter for families and a safe haven for women experiencing domestic violence. The Friendship Center expanded its ability to offer services during the 1980s as domestic violence became more widely recognized as a societal problem, and following the passage of VAWA in 1994, began to serve survivors of sexual assault. After VAWA was reauthorized in 2000, TFC expanded to serve survivors of stalking. The Friendship Center has continued to adapt to provide person-centered, trauma informed, and culturally sensitive services to those impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking throughout the 21st century.

Every individual who receives services from TFC is less likely to continue to experience harm, regardless of what type of service is provided. As well as providing direct services to survivors, The Friendship Center operates a 24/7 Crisis Line that offers support to the community and partner agencies around the clock every day of the year.  

The Friendship Center prides themselves on staff retention, which benefits the community and clients, providing more stability and consistency, and therefore, better outcomes for survivors who seek assistance more than once. They maintain strong working relationships with community partners through the longevity and experience of their staff, and their partners are more likely to make referrals to TFC that benefit survivors.

In recent years, The Friendship Center has increased efforts to provide community outreach and education for the purpose of preventing intimate partner violence and sexual assaults. The outreach and education coordinator, in collaboration with direct services advocates, presented to more than 1,000 community members in 2022, with 35 presentations focused on consent and healthy relationships. TFC continues to build new relationships and gain traction in school districts within their service area, with the belief that empowering youth to seek out and build healthy relationships will decrease the frequency of relationship abuse in future generations.

If you are in need of safe shelter, emotional support, legal advocacy, or help because you are in an abusive relationship, or are concerned about someone who is, please call The Friendship Center at (406) 442-6800.

For more information about The Friendship Center, please visit


Southwest Montana Drug Task Force

2023 Spring Recipient

Montana Division of Criminal Investigation logo

The Board and Martin Heaney from the Southwest Montana Drug Task Force at the March 2023 Board Meeting
The Board honored the Southwest Montana Drug Task Force at the quarterly Board Meeting on March 16, 2023.

The Southwest Montana Drug Task Force (SWDTF) was established in 1994 to combat drug trafficking, investigate and respond to drug endangered children cases, support local law enforcement, and conduct public outreach and education on the dangers of illicit drugs. SWDTF is the primary drug enforcement and investigation unit that serves Butte-Silver Bow and surrounding counties in the region, including Madison, Jefferson, Powell, and Deer Lodge. They also serve communities such as Deer Lodge, Whitehall, Boulder, Phillipsburg, and Dillon.

SWDTF is overseen by the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) with a Regional Agent in Charge serving as the task force commander. The task force is comprised of DCI Agents, staff, and a Task Force Officer (TFO) from Butte – Silver Bow Law Enforcement.

The SWDTF vigorously investigates drug trafficking organizations involved in trafficking dangerous drugs, including fentanyl and methamphetamine, and committing drug-related violent crime.

In 2022, SWDTF dismantled a significant drug trafficking organization following an investigation that spanned more than 2 years. The organization was attributed to trafficking over 2,000 pounds of methamphetamine and over 700,000 fentanyl pills, the majority of which was destined for Montana. The organization had ties to the Sinaloa Cartel, which brought massive quantities of methamphetamine, counterfeit pills containing fentanyl, and heroin to Butte for redistribution.

Throughout the investigation, SWDTF partnered with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and numerous federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The investigation was one of the largest federal drug trafficking probes in Montana in recent years and began in 2019 with a tip about a suspicious package containing money being sent to California.

The investigation revealed that the Mexico suppliers brought drugs on rail and by individuals across the border at ports of entry to stash houses in Southern California. The traffickers then transported multi-pound quantities by vehicle and through the mail to Butte. From Butte, local dealers trafficked the drugs to Missoula, Helena, Great Falls, Bozeman, Billings, and Wolf Point for street-level distribution. The dealers then laundered drug proceeds through the mail, cash shipments, and wire transactions back to the Mexico suppliers.

It is estimated that approximately $2.98 million was laundered in drug proceeds. During the investigation, law enforcement seized 65 pounds of methamphetamine (the equivalent of 235,560 doses), more than 2,000 counterfeit oxycontin pills containing fentanyl, and three pounds of heroin. Law enforcement also seized $32,875 in cash and 19 firearms.

The investigation resulted in the federal convictions of 22 persons, including defendants in California and Mexico with direct ties to the Sinaloa Drug Cartel. The total sentences for these 22 defendants cumulatively spanned more than 132 years.

For full details on the investigation, please read the full article, Investigation dismantles Butte drug trafficking organization with ties to the Sinaloa Cartel.

SWDTF Spring 2023 Program Highlights Presentation

Feedback on This Case

There’s no question that Mexico is the source of illegal drugs pouring into our state. These cases – which are the culmination of years of investigative and prosecutorial work – put that to rest.

Our DCI narcotics agents and Highway Patrol troopers work closely with federal and local partners every day…

Attorney General Austin Knudsen

The success of this collaborative enforcement action would not have been possible without the dedication, cooperation, and hard work of all of our law enforcement partners to hold offenders accountable and to keep Montanans safe

US Attorney Jesse Laslovich

I am very grateful for the multi-jurisdictional approach and the cooperation between local, state and federal law enforcement. These are lengthy, labor-intensive and detailed operations,” “This investigation was very successful in that a significant number of defendants were indicted. It puts drug traffickers on notice that Southwest Montana is a very dangerous place to do business.

Butte Silver Bow Sheriff Ed Lester

Hi-Line's Help for Abused Spouses

2022 Fall Recipient

Hi-Line's Help for Abused Spouses Logo. Enabling Peace by Breaking the Silence.

Nichole Griffith and Lacey Bateman from Victim-Witness Assistance Services and the MBCC Board of Directors on the staircase at the Grant Union Hotel in Fort Benton
The MBCC Board of Directors honored the staff of Hi-Line's Help for Abused Spouses at the quarterly Board Meeting on September 8, 2022 at the Grand Union Hotel in Fort Benton, MT.

Hi-Line’s Help for Abused Spouses’ goal is to provide every victim with a resource, safe space, and emergency and continued support and advocacy so that they may live a life free of violence and fear.

Originally called Triangle Transition, Hi-Line’s Help for Abused Spouses, Inc. was founded by Loy Chvilicek. Loy saw her friends and neighbors on the Hi-Line being abused and, realizing that they had no help or anywhere to go, felt it was her ministry. This early program was instrumental in starting the shelter in Havre and was the basis for many other programs in Montana. The intent of the program was to move down the Hi-Line and pick up counties and develop services to educate volunteers and the public on the severity of domestic violence in our rural farming communities.

Hi-Line’s Help strives to reduce violent crimes by educating the communities and breaking the cycle of violence. The organization helps victims of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking leave their violent situations by providing emergency transportation, safe homes, and emergency financial assistance, by helping to obtain orders of protection, and by providing emotional support and advocacy with trained staff and volunteers, which is essential to breaking the cycle and reducing violent crime. Hi-Line’s educates the community, professionals, schools, health care providers, and other human and community service providers on the dynamics of abuse with their multi-media approach using radio, Facebook, brochures, posters, and videos. Creating a broader circle of awareness about the signs of abuse and safety plans is essential to promoting victim safety, and the services provided by the trained advocates at Hi-Line’s Help has been critical to promoting current and future victims’ safety.

Hi-Line’s Help has had a contract with a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Licensed Addiction Counselor, for the last 4 years to provide substance abuse, trauma, and mental health counseling to adult and youth victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. She travels to the Hi-Line’s Help office bi-monthly to provide counseling and support to victims that are referred to her by the program advocate. She has been instrumental in providing services that victims would be otherwise unable to receive due to cost and travel restrictions.

Hi-Line’s Help incorporates several ways to increase efforts and awareness to combat the stalking epidemic. Staff continuously furthers their critical knowledge on stalking through trainings, webinars, and extensive research. Staff and project partners have developed multi-media campaigns consisting of newspaper articles, public service announcements, social media, and videos to educate the public. Educational presentations are offered to service area schools, community members, and other service providers.

Furthermore, Hi-Line’s Help provides an online training course and follow-up in-service training for staff and volunteers on the dynamics of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. Staff and volunteers receive extensive training on orders of protection, safety planning, and how to communicate with victims in crisis via telephone and face-to-face contact. They review and discussion statutes and are required to attend in-service trainings that provide updated information. All participants must complete the course before they can work with children, youth, and adult victims. The Executive Director, project partners, and Hi-Line’s Help staff continue to research time-proven practice materials and seek out trainers with expertise to identify, assess, and appropriately respond to child, youth, and adult victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking.

The program is highly replicable in other jurisdictions and Hi-Line’s Help believes that there is a need to replicate outreach programs with victim services in areas where shelters are the only service offered to victims. Often, an area that only offers shelter leaves victims to find their own way through court paperwork, support, and outreach services and that leaves them lost.

As the oldest program in Montana, and through their longevity, Hi-Line's Help for Abused Spouses’ most significant achievement is the growth of the program since it was established. Hi-Line’s Help has grown from the desire of one woman to help her neighbors to being run out of an office in a barn to a five-office program employing six advocates and covering six counties. Hi-Line's Help has helped thousands of victims of violence since 1976.

For more information about Hi-Line's Help for Abused Spouses, please visit


MT DOJ Sexual Assault Services Initiative (SAKI)

2022 Spring Recipient

Sexual Assault Services Kit Initiative (SAKI) logo
MT DOJ Sexual Assault Kit Initiative
Montana Division of Criminal Investigation logo
Montana Division of Criminal Investigation

Kayla Bragg, Bryan Fischer, and Dana Toole from the Sexual Assault Services Initiative (SAKI) with the Montana Board of Crime Control at the March 2022 Board Meeting
From left to right: Wyatt English, Beth McLaughlin, Kaydee Snipes Ruiz, Mike Sanders, Dana Toole, Shantelle Gaynor, Bryan Fischer, Kayla Bragg, Leo Dutton, Rick Kirn, Wyatt Glade, Meaghan Mulcahy, Doug Overman, and Bryan Lockerby

The Montana Department of Justice (MT DOJ) Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) program has become a statewide resource and dedicated partner for sexual assault responders.

Montana has been a recipient of the National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Grant since 2016. SAKI was designed to end the rape kit backlog, identify strategies to prevent another backlog from accumulating, develop and improve sexual assault response training, and fundamentally enhance responses to survivors of sexual assault. 

MT DOJ SAKI works to end the backlog of untested and partially tested rape kits by utilizing SAKI funding to identify, collect, and test backlogged rape kits. SAKI works with jurisdictions to review backlogged cases and conduct survivor notifications. Partnering with local jurisdictions and advocacy groups, SAKI connects survivors to community resources and support services that meet their needs.

MT DOJ SAKI also pursues sustainable practices by working on legislative reform. In 2019, Montana passed a sexual assault evidence kit testing law, expanded victim rights for sexual assault victims, and implemented requirements to track sexual assault evidence kits. The Sexual Assault Kit Tracking System allows individuals to learn the status of their sexual assault kit anonymously. Law enforcement agencies, healthcare facilities, and crime laboratories are required to use the system; and SAKI provides technical support and training for hospitals and law enforcement agencies related to tracking sexual assault kits. Montana's kit tracking system has allowed MT DOJ SAKI to identify sexual assault evidence kit workflows, develop accountability, and educate on the importance of testing.

In addition, SAKI offers training for responders of sexual assault, collaborates with the Montana Law Enforcement Academy to train basic officers in sexual assault response, and has developed free, online sexual assault response training courses. SAKI also released an Investigating Sexual Assault Law Enforcement Guide, which provides officers a resource in the field. Training not only teaches best practices in the sexual assault response, but the importance of taking care of yourself as a responder.

The MT DOJ SAKI program is a diverse program and has even assisted in cases beyond the sexual assault kit. For example, MT DOJ SAKI worked with local jurisdictions to fund advanced DNA testing in cold case sexually motivated homicides and unidentified remains cases.

MT DOJ SAKI has organically fostered a sexual assault response network by discussing the problems, identifying solutions, and working collaboratively with stakeholders to adopt sustainable best practices in Montana.

Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) Brochure

MBCC 2022 Spring Program Highlights SAKI Presentation

Victim-Witness Assistance Services

2021 Recipient

Victim-Witness Assistance Services logo

Nichole Griffith and Lacey Bateman from Victim-Witness Assistance Services and the MBCC Board of Directors on the staircase at the Grant Union Hotel in Fort Benton
From left to right:
Bottom row - Sheriff Leo Dutton, Lacey Bateman,
Nichole Griffith, Shantelle Gaynor, Rick Kirn
Middle row - Bryan Lockerby, Kaydee Snipes Ruiz
Top row - Jared Cobell, Mike Sanders, and Wyatt English

Victim-Witness Assistance Services (VWAS) is a unique community-based victim services program that also provides system-based services to victims of crime in Cascade County. For 30 years, VWAS has provided free and confidential services to all victims of crime, has helped victims cope with victimization, and has ensured victims have a voice in the criminal justice process. VWAS advocates provide 24-hour crisis response services and work closely with law enforcement, hospital staff, City and County prosecutors, the Child Advocacy Center, the local shelter staff, and other community organizations to best serve victims of crime.

VWAS started as a college project in the early 1990s in response to the evident need for services to be available for victims in Cascade County. With the help of the late Lt. Jim Sharpe, VWAS started with a handful of volunteers, a desk, and a phone in the middle of an office in the Great Falls Police Department.

What started as a volunteer project to create a safe space for victims of crime has evolved into a fully functional non-profit that outgrew its small police department office, has employed up to four full-time advocates, and handles approximately 500 active cases at any given time. VWAS staff serve as the crime victim advocates throughout the criminal justice process, the community advocates for crisis response at the emergency room, trained advocates for the local accredited Child Advocacy Center, and as partners for law enforcement to call upon.

VWAS Director, Nichole Griffith, was selected to serve on the state Child Abuse and Neglect Review Commission and the new local Crime Task Force in Great Falls. Current VWAS advocates have been serving the community since 2007 and 2008 and are still going strong. In a career field that sees so much trauma, sadness, frustration, and turnover, VWAS finds strength in the opportunity to help others and provide support when needed most.