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Witness Intimidation

NCJ Number
Kelly Dedel
Date Published
July 2006
72 pages
This guide provides an overview of the problem and responses to witness intimidation.
Witness intimidation is but one aspect of the larger set of problems related to protecting crime victims and witnesses from further harm. Witness intimidation has a special significance for prosecutors, as well as for police. Citizens who witness or are victimized by crime are sometimes reluctant to report incidents to police or to assist in the prosecution of offenders. This reluctance may be in response to a perceived or actual threat of retaliation by the offender or his/her associates. Historically, witness intimidation is most closely associated with organized crime and domestic violence, but today includes drug, gang, violent and other types of crimes. To combat witness intimidation effectively, law enforcement must combine the basic facts with a more specific understanding of the local problem. They must analyze the problem so that they will be able to design an effective remedial strategy. Once an analysis of the problem is completed, response strategies will provide a foundation for addressing the intimidation problem. Strategies and responses are presented but it is critical that law enforcement tailor responses to local circumstances and not limit them to what only the police can do, but what others in the community can contribute. This guide focuses on the issues and responses that are most relevant to police. General responses include: forming multiagency partnerships, limiting liability, strengthening police and community ties, assessing risk of intimidation, and choosing the best strategy. Specific responses are those directed at protecting witnesses and deterring intimidators, as well as those with limited effectiveness. The guide begins by describing the problem of witness intimidation and reviewing the factors that increase its risk. It then identifies a series of questions that can help analyze local witness intimidation problems. Lastly, it reviews responses to the problem as identified through research and police practice. Appendix and references