Start Snitching, Get Killed?

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Here’s something that those of us who decry urban mores against ‘snitching’ forgot to consider—witness intimidation. Imagine having to live down the block from the knuckleheads who know that you know exactly what violent thing they did:

No national statistics on crimes against witnesses exist, and minimal research has been conducted on the subject. The latest National Institute of Justice survey on record — conducted more than a decade ago — shows that more than half of big city prosecutors consider witness intimidation a major problem.

Colorado has $50,000 allocated to its witness protection budget. In contrast, the city of Denver spent almost $100,000 on landscaping last year.

The state, on average, spends about $1,000 per witness. That figure supposedly includes moving expenses, rent, and furniture. The federal program spends in excess of $40 million per year on witness protection.

One possible reason for the disparity is that witnesses in state cases do not get new identities, as do federal witnesses. “It’s not designed to be a long-term relocation at the public’s expense; it’s a way to ensure the immediate safety of the witnesses,” according to Peter Weir, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety.

Witnesses in criminal cases get intimidated, and murdered, with alarming frequency while those of us who live lives far removed, except by the worst of luck, from crime tsk-tsk over their poor character when they choose their safety over their civic duty. It’s one thing to disapprove of tolerating criminality. It’s quite another to focus on landscaping when leaving brave witnesses to protect themselves, and their families, from conscienceless predators.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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