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Meth crime in Montana is down because law enforcement agencies are working together, but there’s more to be done, U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., told a service group Tuesday.

Baucus, speaking to the Billings Downtown Exchange Club, said the state had made progress fighting methamphetamine crime in the past few years, improving the lives of children and the community.

The Exchange Club focuses on youth-oriented programs including child abuse prevention.

Meth crime isn’t as pervasive as it was in 2002 when Baucus first took it up as a cause by speaking with school children about the pitfalls of drugs. Now prescription drug abuse on the rise and the same coordinated efforts are needed.

“It’s just been a cause of mine to do all we can to boost drug enforcement,” Baucus said.

When methamphetamine crime surged last decade, police in five Montana counties, including Yellowstone, upped their game with the help of the federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, of HIDTA, program. The program helps task forces coordinate crime-fighting efforts.

Baucus has been a major advocate of the HIDTA program, which divided $239 million among more than 400 counties across the United States this year.

Last month, it wasn’t clear whether Congress was funding the anti-drug trafficking program at the same level, as a 12 percent cut was proposed. Congress restored the funding in late July.

In years past, Baucus held anti-drug rallies at Montana schools. Asking children at those rallies if they knew someone using drugs, Baucus said he realized just how exposed to drug use Montana’s children were.

“About 50 percent of the hands went up,” Baucus told the audience of roughly 40 people. “And that was here in Billings, in Miles City, in Bozeman.”

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