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Pilot Program Will Focus on Removing From the Streets Those Who Threaten Witnesses, Van Hollen And Chisholm Announce


MADISON - A new witness protection program to combat violent crime in Milwaukee was announced today by Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm. The pilot program will focus on removing from the streets those who threaten witnesses. The project will operate throughout the summer and is funded by a $50,000 grant that the Department of Justice was awarded earlier this month by the Office of Justice Assistance.


"This victim and witness protection and security pilot program will provide proactive protection of crime victims and witnesses and will proactively investigate witness-tampering crimes," said Van Hollen. "By removing the threat, we increase the chances that threatened witnesses will testify, improving the chances of obtaining convictions."


The incidents where victims and witnesses are most frequently subjected to physical harm, intimidation, bribery, and threats, generally involve crimes of homicide, shootings, and domestic violence. The initiative will seek to identify the defendants most likely to engage in criminal efforts intending to hinder prosecution, whether through threats of harm or witness bribery.


"Witness protection is one of the top priorities of law enforcement," said Chisholm. "Working with Attorney General Van Hollen and the Department of Justice, we will pilot a program that demonstrates the value of witness protection for the citizens of Milwaukee County" said Chisholm.


"Witnesses who are threatened often do not appear in court. It puts the whole criminal justice system at risk," said Van Hollen. "A threat to a victim or witness is a threat not only to the individual, but to the criminal justice system."


In addition to the pilot project, Attorney General Van Hollen has made a criminal investigation agent available on request to supplement District Attorney Chisholm's investigative unit, which actively investigates crimes involving witness tampering.


The pilot project is aimed at reducing violent crime in Milwaukee and enabling the successful prosecution of underlying crimes. The project will run through the summer, and Attorney General Van Hollen will evaluate its success to determine whether to recommend the creation of similar, ongoing projects throughout the state.


"John Chisholm has identified the lack of a witness protection program in Milwaukee as a major contributor to violent crime. I wanted to do what I could to help," said Van Hollen.