Massachusetts lawmakers have broken months of legislative gridlock and passed a sweeping anticrime bill that would create an extensive state witness-protection program and toughen penalties for several tactics that street gangs use to spread fear and violence, the Boston Globe reports. The bill would provide $1.5 million for a state witness-protection program that would allow police protection, new housing, and relocation for witnesses who are found to be vulnerable to reprisal. District attorneys now pay to protect witnesses from their own, often-strained budgets.
The bill would toughen penalties for witness intimidation, create a new crime for leaking grand jury testimony to thwart court proceedings, make it illegal to share guns used in crimes, and make it easier to prosecute perjury in violent crime cases. The legislation was approved against a backdrop of increased street violence in Boston and other cities, with homicides increasing, gang activity proliferating, and a street ethic against helping police or testifying in court.