Why some witnesses are reluctant to talk to police after crime

A former a prosecutor and public safety expert explains why some people might be reluctant to talk to police after a crime.
Published: Apr. 27, 2023 at 11:25 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - There are unsolved murders and crimes across the city, and in some cases lots of witnesses, but few tips.

Almost two weeks ago, six people were shot in Chickasaw Park with two of them dying. Hundreds of people were in the park, but police have been begging for tips.

This week, LMPD asked the public again for any evidence that could help them get justice for the victims of the Chickasaw Park mass shooting.

A former a prosecutor and public safety expert explained why some people might be reluctant to do that.

You might have the phone number 574-LMPD burned into your memory. It makes a regular appearance on WAVE News broadcasts after we report crime stories.

LMPD said any tips no matter how small, could help investigations. However sometimes, people are reluctant to come forward.

“If individuals are not getting the benefit of law enforcement. If the homicides that take place there, if the shootings that take place there go unsolved, then they’re not going to have confidence law enforcement can protect them,” the Director of Criminal Justice Initiatives at the Georgia Center for Opportunity Josh Crawford said.

Right now, LMPD is rebuilding its relationship with the Louisville Community.

In March, the Department of Justice released a report outlining examples of discrimination of LMPD in some arrest cases.

“Polling suggests that people who live in communities plagued by high rates of violence want more law enforcement, not less,” Crawford said. “They recognize the role that law enforcement plays in keeping that community as safe as it is that better and more law enforcement can make it safer.”

Crawford said many communities, not just in Louisville, might not feel police can do their jobs reliably or fairly based on past interactions with officers.

“These neighborhoods very much know who the problem actors are, they want those individuals oftentimes removed from the community so that people can be safe,” Crawford said. “But if policing is done in a way where they don’t have confidence that those are the people who are taken out of the community and everyone else is going to be left alone to thrive, then it can create this sort of tension.”

Crawford said making communities safer works in a cycle.

He said when police departments make people feel safe, officers get more cooperation. And when they get more cooperation, they get better homicide clearance rates. And when they get that, it makes communities safer.

“You have to start somewhere, and making individual witnesses, victims, victim’s families, feel safe enough to participate in the criminal justice process is a really good way to start that cycle,” Crawford said.

Crawford said a few years ago around $200,000 was allocated to a state witness protection program.

He said not all of the money has been spent, and it could be a way to help make witnesses feel safer. Crawford also said it’s very hard to navigate for prosecutors and law enforcement, so it would take some work to get everything running smoothly.