INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis police have had trouble getting the victims and witnesses of violent crimes to talk to them, largely because they fear retribution.
Now, Mayor Joe Hogsett wants the city to spend $300,000 to help change that culture of fear.
Hogsett said his latest plan stems from conversations he's had with neighborhood leaders around Indianapolis. They say the same thing as police -- that witnesses and victims can be afraid to tell what they know about violent crimes.
The announcement also follows an investigation by the Indianapolis Star that found the city of Indianapolis currently allocates no money for witness protection – which the paper linked to recent murder cases where charges have been dropped.
"This is a real issue in our community,” Indianapolis City-County Councilor Rev. Stephen J. Clay said in a release. “What parent would encourage their child to give eyewitness testimony of a crime that could subsequently cost them their life? Witnesses brave enough to put their life in danger to keep their community safe deserve that peace of mind.”
Hogsett said the Office of Finance and Management found the money within the current budget. He also said the re-allocation would not impact the city's budget for the 2018 fiscal year.
The new spending would require the City-County Council's approval.
"I'm pleased that councilors on both sides have now come out and now the mayor has come out and has said we need to try to do something. I don't know that this is the end all be all witness protection program, but I think it's definitely a place to start," said City-County Councilman Scott Kreider.
The presidents of the Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis and the Baptist Ministers Alliance said they are in support of the plan.
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry released a statement that reads in part:
"We were pleasantly surprised by today's announcement that money has been found in the budget to assisting witnesses. We look forward to working with IMPD and other public safety partners to find effective uses of this potential funding once more details are available."
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