Encouraging Witnesses to Come Forward

March 10, 2008 8:01:10 PM PDT
Prosecutors in the South Valley are looking for new ways to encourage those who witness a crime to find the courage to come forward.The Tulare County District Attorney's office is developing a brand new program to protect witnesses of crimes who are afraid to come forward. Often these are witnesses to gang and other violent crimes.

To put criminals in jail, it takes witnesses. But Ivanhoe resident Carol Fina says many in her neighborhood refuse to come forward out of fear for their own safety.

Carol Fina, Ivanhoe Resident: "They have the terror in their homes also they have family members who have guns who say you're going to let me do what I want to do or you're going to be gone.

In Tulare County, the effort to stop witness intimidation is happening on several levels. On Friday, prosecutors served an injunction against the Ivanhoe street gang "south side kings" preventing any of its members from associating with each other. That means they can't walk down the street or even ride in a car together.

It also means they can't gather together to intimidate people. Tulare County District Attorney Phil Cline says intimidation can come in different forms.

Phil Cline, Tulare Co. District Attorney: "People can be followed when they go around town, they can be more direct threats such as somebody answering the door and somebody pointing a gun at their face and threatening them with death if they testify."

That's why the District Attorney's office just printed these special fliers in a new campaign that's meant to educate them about intimidation and what can be done to stop it.

Cline: "No amount of resources that we can put to bear on stopping the gang problem will have any effect at all unless people are willing to step up and go in the court of law and ensure that justice is done."

Fina: "The little ones are living with this terror and so we need to get with the little ones and talk to them and educate the parents."

The DA's office will soon start coordinating their efforts with different neighborhood groups to spread the message along.

They stress it will take the community's support to make the program work.


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