KC woman calls for stronger protection for victims, witnesses of crimes

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City residents are calling for for stronger police protection for crime victims and witnesses, hoping if people know they'll be safe, they'll help police solve more crimes.

Teresa Perry started a petition, asking Kansas City police to set up funding and programs to keep those people safe. She also called on the Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission and Jackson County COMBAT program for help.

Perry said if people knew they'd be safe, they'd be more likely to cooperate with investigators and help police solve crimes.

“They’re afraid for their lives,” said Perry, a community activist. “And that means we’re still leaving someone out on the street that can commit the same crime again and hurt another."

The goal of the petition is more cooperation, so people such as Aishah Coppage can get justice.

Police haven't charged anyone in the 2016 shooting deaths of Coppage's eight-year-old son Montell and nine-year-old nephew Jayden.

She's heard discouraging things from the community.

“They were telling us there's no point in us continuing to raise money because nobody is going to say nothing,” Coppage said.

But she thinks if people knew they had protection, they might have come forward with information about the killings.

“The people are looking at it like this: They're gonna kill some kids. What makes you think they care about killing me?" she said.

Coppage said she'll spend her time collecting signatures for the petition.

FOX4 went to the Kansas City Police Department's Victim Advocate to learn what they already do to protect witnesses.

“There are situations that our detectives have come up against that someone truly does need to be relocated if possible,” Jennifer Miller said. “But it's kind of a hit and miss because we don`t have anything in place. Most law enforcement agencies don't because, with anything else, there's a cost component to it.”

Miller said KCPD has not moved any witnesses, but they have contacted landlords to help find safer places for them to live.

Witnesses can get orders of protection from defendants and sign up for an address confidentiality program.

There's a Missouri statute on the books dealing with the rights of victims and witnesses, It mostly relates to information about court proceedings.

A formal program to help witnesses would likely require an amendment to that statute.

“I think something like that is definitely needed,” Miller said. “Our PD and our prosecutor's office value our victims and our witnesses who are cooperating with investigations.”

Miller said people with knowledge about crimes can always call the anonymous Crime Stoppers tip line at 816-474-8477.

Missouri Rep. Brandon Ellington sponsored a bill that would grant victims and witnesses an automatic order of protection if they were fearful for their safety. It's in committee right now. There isn't a hearing scheduled yet.

The United States Marshals Service has the Witness Security Program, which applies to witnesses of federal crimes. The program protected more than 18,000 people since it began in 1971. Witnesses and their families typically get new identities.