Newark street gangs hold such a brutal grip on some neighborhoods that prosecutors have difficulty protecting one of the essential components of any investigation: witnesses, the New York Times reports. The prosecutor's office has no staff assigned to the task, and no dedicated financing to cover the cost of relocating terrified witnesses. Each time a witness is threatened – it happens several times a week – investigators may be forced to scramble to search for the money and staff to keep him or her safe.
The state attorney general's office, which oversees county prosecutors, has spent less than $400,000 during the past four years on relocating witnesses, moving just 21 people, along with 35 of their relatives. The New Jersey State Police has a relocation unit that moves an additional handful of witnesses a year, only in cases begun by their own detectives. They offer assistance to local prosecutors if the district attorneys agree to pick up the bill – costs the prosecutors say are prohibitive. The lack of financing for effective state witness protection programs has been a problem for years in New Jersey, as it has in many states.