JEFFERSON CITY, MO (STL.News) Witnesses to violent crimes could be relocated to safe locations as they await their court appearances based on legislation sponsored by Missouri State Senator Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville. Senate Bill 857 establishes The Pretrial Witness Protection Services Fund to cover relocation costs incurred by local law enforcement agencies.
“Far too many crimes remain unsolved in Missouri because witnesses are afraid to come forward and assist prosecutors,” Sen. Luetkemeyer said. “This legislation allows state funding for relocating witnesses so they are safe from violent criminals. If witnesses know they are safe, they’re much more likely to come forward and help put criminals behind bars.”
The fund created by Sen. Luetkemeyer’s legislation would be administered by the Missouri Department of Public Safety and be dispersed to local law enforcement agencies to provide housing and security for witnesses, potential witnesses and their immediate families. Funds would be subject to appropriation by the General Assembly.
The legislation comes as part of a legislative proposal promoted by the mayors of the state’s four largest cities—St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield and Columbia. Of the measure, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas stated, “The current clearance rate for fatal and particularly non-fatal shootings in Kansas City is deeply disappointing, partly due to reluctance of shooting victims to cooperate for fear of retaliation. I appreciate Sen. Luetkemeyer’s work on The Pretrial Witness Protection Services Fund and look forward to working with him to make Kansas City and all the communities in our state safer.”
Springfield Mayor Ken McClure also endorsed the legislative effort. “The mayors of Kansas City, St. Louis, Columbia and Springfield have focused on the need for enhances witness protection. Such an effort is essential as the state deals with violent crime challenges. We are deeply appreciative of Senator Luetkemeyer’s leadership on this crucial matter.”