Citing a rise in suburban gang violence and the intimidation of witnesses against them, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) again is proposing to give local prosecutors money to create witness protection programs inspired by those used by federal law enforcement, the New York Times reports. Schumer said his legislation would grant $90 million across the nation to help safeguard crime victims and other witnesses who help the prosecution of criminals. Local prosecutors often say they do not have enough money.
Three years ago Schumer made a similar proposal, after the murder of a witness to a Brooklyn schoolyard shooting drew attention to a lack of protection for witnesses. Now the focus has expanded to the suburbs, where gangs have proliferated. Federal witness protection programs, including elaborate changes of identity and relocation of families, are well publicized. Citics say local prosecutors often fall far short of those standards, and that witnesses who feel endangered may refuse to testify, allowing criminals to go free.