City hopes witness assistance program leads to more solved violent crime cases

Indianapolis Area Crime

INDIANAPOLIS — Police and prosecutors rely on witnesses to violent crimes to come forward and help them solve cases. Oftentimes, those who witnessed these events are too afraid to speak up.

The city of Indianapolis is once again funding the witness assistance program, offering a safer way for people to share information with IMPD and the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office.

“It allows people who have any information whatsoever — if it’s a sexual crime, if it’s a domestic violence situation, if it’s a homicide — they are able to reach out to the victim advocates with IMPD, or the detective in the case, and say ‘this is what I know,'” said Carlette Duffy, deputy director of Program and Management for the Office of Public Health & Safety.

IMPD said those who qualify for the program are identified through the cases’ detectives and are witnesses who are deemed to have a credible threat to their lives.

“We are able to not only help one individual that may be impacted by violent crime, but we’re able to help an entire family and indeed we have done that,” Dep. Chief Kendale Adams said.

Cathy Mann is a grieving mother who would love for a witness to come forward in her son’s case.

“Anybody who lives in Brentwood Apartments, they know,” Cathy said. “Amber Woods, they know. Everybody in that area knows who killed my son.”

TreVon Mann was reported missing on Jan. 13, 2018. Five days later, his body was found in an apartment near 42nd and Post Road. A tip to the Indianapolis Ten Point Coalition led police to the apartment complex, where they found the frozen body of the 19-year-old young man. Cathy came to the scene to help identify the victim.

“I don’t think no one could walk in my shoes knowing the things that were done to my son,” Cathy said. “I don’t think nobody could handle my shoes right now.”

Cathy said she hopes people who are eligible will take advantage of the city’s witness assistance program.

“Even though you don’t want to snitch, it’s not snitching,” Cathy said. “It’s doing the right thing.”

Through the program, witnesses can get help with housing, relocation and mental health care. But, it’s ultimately up to the person to decide whether they want help with any of these services.

“Not only are we offering you this safe space, we’re offering you these other services not only to you but to your immediate family members,” Adams said.

In 2021, the city reports 105 people in 25 cases have taken part in the program in connection with IMPD. The prosecutor’s office reports 49 people have been connected to the witness assistance program.

In an email, a spokesperson for the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office said police and prosecutors have spent $107,381.28 as of Aug. 25, 2021.

The spokesperson added, “As an example of how the funds are used, in a past murder trial we paid for the airfare and hotel for an essential witness traveling to Indianapolis to testify. The witness did not have the personal ability to pay for those costs and possibly would not have appeared for the trial without this assistance. Another example would be that the funds have been used for rent/hotels for witness/victim’s safety concerns.”

“They’re speaking up because they want to take back their communities,” Duffy said. “They want their communities to be safe. They want their kids to be able to sit outside and not get shot at.”

Cathy said she remains hopeful people will take advantage of this city program.

“I think for our city, because of our high crime rate, our high murder rate, a lot of people are scared, but at the end of the day, we still have to do the right thing,” Cathy said.

The city said they keep track of every service transaction for each resource, but those entities are often serving more than one person. The Office of Public Health & Safety is currently going through data to know how many individuals they have served since the program began in 2018. They said they will provide those numbers soon, and we will update this story when they do.

Each year, OPHS receives $150,000 to operate the program.

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