Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Law Enforcement – It Takes A Village

Posted by bsflag2007 on Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ok, “it takes a village” is on my list of tired and tiresome slogans – but in this case it does evoke the image I am looking for, particularly in the context of HoCo and Columbia.

We may not be plagued by the scope of the crime problem in our neighboring metropoli, but our police face some of the same frustrations in their efforts to keep the streets safe for all of us — scared and reluctant witnesses.

The police will tell you that for most of the crimes they investigate, there are plenty of folks who know the who and why answers – they just won’t share. Unlike the “feds” most local jurisdictions do not have the funding or the programs in place to provide adequate witness protection.

Our own Congressman Cummings has “reintroduced” legislation to help state and local prosecutors (and police) provide a measure of protection for witnesses to homicides or other major violent crimes – which should result in better cooperation and incentives for community members to come forward with information.

Cummings Reintroduces the “Witness Security and Protection Act of 2007”

Congressman Cummings has reintroduced the “Witness Security and Protection Act of 2007, (H.R. 933)” which would expand state and local witness protection programs. U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has introduced a companion bill, S. 79.

The bill would establish a short-term State Witness Protection Program within the U.S. Marshals Service to provide protection for witnesses in state and local trials involving homicide or other major violent crimes. The legislation would also authorize the U.S. Attorney General to make grants to eligible prosecutor’s offices for the purpose of providing short term protection to witnesses in trials involving homicide or other serious violent felonies.

….State and local prosecutors often must choose between funding investigations or funding costly, but necessary witness protection programs. This often leads to some jurisdictions providing no witness protection at all.

“No one wins when law enforcement officials are forced to choose between funding investigations and funding witness protection programs,” Congressman Cummings said, “That is why I have reintroduced the “Witness Security and Protection Act of 2007.’” (from Cummings E-Newsletter).

Witness intimidation, the impediments to investigation and enforcement, and the cost to local jurisdictions may not be a significant problem in HoCo right now (unless you have been a victim of an unsolved or unpunished crime – then it probably seems significant). It may also be true that this legislation may have been more motivated by concerns about other counties, but I don’t care. HoCo should be the recipient of its’ benefits. Having tools in place before a crisis is a much better plan than “management by crisis”.

Now, if you are interested in giving law enforcement a much needed tool for its’ toolbelt – write to your other elected officials and urge support for this legislation.

Cindy Vaillancourt


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