Witnesses


This piece is about how citizens in tough zip codes - distrust police, and won’t cooperate with police to solve crimes in their own neighborhoods. And eventually, many lose their own relatives to another crime because no one will talk. 

I watch a lot crime shows with real interviews. Sometimes I see police giving pretty rigorous questioning to people that have shared an orbit of time and place with a crime. I have also seen on TV where police routinely accuse people of the crime they are investigating, even when the police lack hard evidence that the interviewee was involved in the crime. 
It seems that some cops try to get a confession out of anyone that shared an orbit with a crime. 

I see reports of people in these tough neighborhoods, not wanting to talk to the police when a neighbor is shot. 
And I hear about the ‘defund the police’ movement. And…I think these items are related, and be converted to math, 
to the number of silent witnesses. 

Think about this: If police accuse everyone they talk to, as though each were guilty of the crime, hoping to get a confession without any prior supporting evidence… 
And if they question 5 different people as suspects, then likely they are to speak to at least 3 innocent people. 
And those people are going to feel falsely accused by the police. 

If each of those three innocent people have 50 relatives and friends, then those 50 relatives and friends will hear about how the police accused them of something they didn’t do. Those 150 relatives and friends then, will believe that if a crime happens near them, they too will be interrogated by the police and accused of a crime they didn’t commit. 

So then, from one crime, we have 150 people who quit trusting the police. 

There would be a lot less distrust of the police if witnesses were not talked to like suspects until there was sufficient evidence to suspect them. From years of watching crime shows, I have learned that if a person witnessed a crime, 
some police consider them to be suspects, because they are always looking for the last person to see the victim alive, which would make them the killer. 

So, in tough zip codes, neighbors of a crime are afraid to come forward, and not just because of fear of retribution from the local criminals, but also because they don’t want to be treated like a criminal by the police. And they know that the real criminals would be happy to see innocent people go to jail for a crime they committed. 

I feel sorry for innocent people who live in tough zip codes. And I understand police wanting solve crimes as quickly as possible, but the consequences of treating every person in the orbit of a crime, as a potential criminal, rather than first as a possible witness? That seems to be a poor harvest, practiced by some cops. 

But, on the other side of the coin, there is another reason that people in tough zip codes are hesitant to talk to the police. One article,  (https://www.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/79_1_5_0.pdf) 

said that in 2014, there was likely 2,000,000 open warrants in the US on any given day. And half of those, (1,000,000) are felony warrants. Do you think things have gotten better since 2014? 

People with open warrants don’t want to talk to cops, about anything. They warrants will be discovered.
So, apart from fear of retaliation by criminals or being accused of the crime, 
personal legal issues in tough zip codes decrease the willingness of citizens to talk to the police, 
because this puts a target on their back because of open warrants. 

Eric J. Rose 
middlegrademysteries.com 
photo: newsroom.unsw.edu.au
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