Bill could help with witness protection in Vanderburgh Co.

Published: Jan. 5, 2018 at 11:21 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 15, 2018 at 6:29 PM CST
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VANDERBURGH CO., IN (WFIE) - A new bill filed in the 2018 legislative session would send $200,000 per year to Marion and Vanderburgh Counties for witness protection programs.

The funding is part of a three year pilot program, with the counties splitting the money.

They can use it for physical protection, threat investigations along with numerous witness and victim assistance services.

Vanderburgh County had 19 murders in 2017. 14 of those were by gunfire. That murder rate has tripled since 2016, according to authorities.

Authorities also say people reported hearing gun shots 850 times last year.

Vanderburgh County was chosen for this program because of the violent crime trends tied to gang activity and drug deals over the past few years.

The Prosecutor's office handles thousands of cases every year.

In a few extreme cases, the say their office and victims or witnesses could benefit from the funding.

"We usually have issues because we don't have funding, particularly in terms of short and long-term housing," Erin Schmitt Tuley, Major Felony Deputy Prosecutor, explained.. "We work with several shelters throughout the county, but when those shelters are full, we really have no options as far as placing victims, so a steady stream of funding for support of those victims and witnesses in our trials and placing them in housing would be invaluable to us."

The prosecutor's office believes as many as 15 gangs are operating in the city.

A majority of the violent crime, they say, is tied to three.

Senate bill 150 was assigned to the senate appropriations committee. A hearing has not been set.

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