Senator Schumer proposes Witness Protection Act
Posted at: 07/30/2012 5:48 PM
| Updated at: 07/30/2012 8:04 PM
By: Christine VanTimmeren | WHEC.com
The city of Rochester has had 23 homicides this year and of those 23, police say, only 8 of those cases have been solved and closed. Investigators say that is because witnesses are living in fear, they believe if they come forward, their lives will be at risk.
April 9, 22 year old Lawrence Richardson was shot and killed on Dayton Street, no arrests. June 8, 20 year old Miguel Dejesus shot and killed on Wilkins Street, no suspects. June 17, 21 year old Deavonghn Hernandez Ruffin shot and killed outside of the Bug Jar on Monroe Avenue, his family and police still looking for information.
Senator Charles Schumer said, "Despite the fact that scores of people were out and about on the street near the crime, the investigation remained stalled. Why? Lack of witness cooperation."
In fact, Senator Schumer says there are people out there actually encouraging witnesses not to come forward, using t-shirts.
The t-shirts say, "Stop snitching, hood rules apply, don't watch me."
The Senator says the Rochester City School District has had to ban the shirts because they were in schools. So he's coming down hard on those who choose to intimidate witnesses with new federal legislation called Witness Protection Act.
Senator Charles Schumer said, "It makes the despicable behavior of intimidating a witness to a crime a federal crime itself."
Rochester Police Chief, James Shepard said, "This is a great tool for us to present to people, let them know that we won't let them be intimidated or harassed."
Meaning those with information may be less afraid to come forward and the families of the victims will find the closure they're looking for.
Rochester Mayor, Tom Richards said, "We're talking about the people affected by these crimes, pleading for people, someone must know."
What this legislation doesn't address is any actual physical protection for witnesses who come forward. News10NBC spoke with the family of Deavonghn Hernandez Ruffin Monday.
They didn't want to go on camera but they said they are happy something is being done. When asked if they think it would really make a difference they said, maybe not...but it's a start.
The status of the legislation right now according to Senator Schumer is in Judiciary Committee right now and will come up for a vote in September. He hopes it will be passed by the end of the year. He says this is a bill that has bipartisan support.