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Evaluation of the Illinois State Police Gang Crime Witness Protection Program

NCJ Number
Date Published
56 pages

This report presents the methodology and findings of a process evaluation of the first 12 months' operation of Illinois' Gang Crime Witness Protection Program.


As a result of recommendations by the Governor's Commission on Gangs, Governor Edgar approved legislation (H.B. 3448) designed to reduce gang-related crimes by protecting witnesses who help prosecute these cases. Included in that legislation was the creation of a State-funded witness protection pilot program to be developed and administered by the Illinois State Police. The Illinois Legislature appropriated $666,000 for the 2 years of program operations. The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority was called upon in that legislation to evaluate the program's implementation and impact. The Gang Crime Witness Protection Program is composed of two components: partial reimbursement for witness protection costs to State's attorneys and the Attorney General's Office as well as technical assistance to law enforcement and prosecutors on witness protection issues. The evaluation used a multifaceted approach to document the planning and implementation process of the program, from its initial phases to its current status. Research staff used various data-collection methods, including a comprehensive review of existing documents, in-person interviews with program staff, a survey of Illinois' State's attorneys, as well as telephone interviews of selected officials and an analysis of case-level data obtained from the reimbursement request forms. Nearly two- thirds of the 83 Illinois State's attorneys who responded to the statewide survey reported they were aware of the services provided by the Gang Crime Witness Protection Act. Most State's attorneys' offices reported that a statewide program that offered technical assistance and expense reimbursement for witness protection/relocation would be a valuable tool in combatting gang crime and would improve victim/witness cooperation and induce more persons to testify in gang-crime cases. During the initial 12 months of program operations, three counties submitted requests for reimbursement of $30,962 in costs related to the protection and/or relocation of 27 individuals in 18 cases. There were no applications for technical assistance during the first 12 months and three during the next 4 months. Due to the lack of program awareness, the majority of State's attorney respondents reported a desire for regional program awareness and training seminars. Sixty-two percent of the law enforcement respondents expressed a desire to apply to the program, citing a need to have funds immediately available during the investigative stage to better secure witnesses and their testimony. Recommendations are offered for improving program operations. 7 references and appended evaluation survey instrument