Legislation aims to protect witnesses

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — In September, a Buffalo man helped police investigate the brutal murder of 16-year-old Darren Brown. Soon after, that man and his girlfriend were shot by the two suspects in the case.

Because of cases like that, Senator Charles Schumer wants to make sure that if you have to testify about a crime, you’re protected.

Schumer was in Buffalo Monday, to discuss his witness intimidation legislation. Schumer is proposing tougher legislation to protect key witnesses. He said, “It’s critical we protect courageous people who are willing to come forward.”

Last year Buffalo had 50 homicides, and only 12 were solved. Schumer said, “How are our police officers and district attorneys going to prosecute crime, when witnesses won’t come forward.”

Schumer says on the street, there’s a ‘do not snitch,’ culture. Some local stores even sell shirts that say, ‘snitches get stitches.’

Schumer said, “They tell people, if you witness a crime and you snitch to local law enforcement, you’re going to pay the price.”

That’s why Schumer says it’s critical to pass this legislation. There are local witness protection laws, but this is the first federal one.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, “This is just another important tool for law enforcement, in being able to make the community safer.”

Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said, “And it gives us the tools to put them where they belong, for a very long time.”

Because this is a federal crime, a convicted felon that kills a witness could get the death penalty, and for other types of witness intimidation, they could get up to 30 years in prison.

Schumer said there is bipartisan support behind the bill, so he hopes it gets passed within the next three to four months.

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