As the number of murders in Orlando’s Orange County reached record levels in recent years, prosecutors struggle to convict homicide suspects, says the Orlando Sentinel. Police say residents who live in high-crime communities once spoke out to preserve their neighborhood. Now, they’re less likely to help because they worry about retaliation from suspects’ friends and street gangs.
It’s a challenge to get anyone who heard or saw something to come forward. The State Attorney’s Office does not keep statistics on the number of times charges have been dropped or reduced because witnesses kept silent. Anecdotally, officials say, the numbers have climbed. “Public safety is at risk when the public doesn’t want to participate in it,” prosecutor’s office spokesman Randy Means said. “The more they fail to participate, the worse violent crime gets.” When suspects go free, they often return to crime. The Sentinel gives examples of the trend.