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Criminal Justice & Legal System

Flint Mayor, Genesee County Prosecutor propose witness protection program

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steve carmody
/
Michigan Radio
“We have individuals afraid to step up, to give the information that’s necessary to get violent criminals off the street,” said Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley at a news conference with Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton (right)

Flint’s mayor is proposing a witness protection program to combat what he calls “localized terrorism.”

As proposed, the program could provide temporary housing out of town for people who may not otherwise be willing to cooperate with police.

“We have individuals afraid to step up, to give the information that’s necessary to get violent criminals off the street,” said Neeley.

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton stood with Neeley at Tuesday’s news conference announcing the witness protection proposal. Leyton said the witness protection program could provide temporary, out-of-town housing for a half-dozen to up to two-dozen people a year.

Leyton said “fear” is preventing many potential witnesses from talking to police.

“Fear that they could be harmed. Fear that something could happen to them personally or to their families, loved ones,” said Leyton.

Leyton notes this is a problem in many Michigan cities, not just Flint.

The county prosecutor said the situation could get worse. He’s concerned the Michigan Supreme Court could soon strike down the use of a one-man grand jury, which the prosecutor’s office has used in many violent crime cases.

Mayor Neeley is proposing tapping American Rescue Plan Act funding to pay for the launch of the witness protection program.

The Flint city council will need to approve using the ARPA funds.

Neeley presented his plan for spending ARPA funds to the city council Tuesday night. The mayor’s proposal calls for spending most of the money on blight reduction, fiscal responsibility and economic development.

But several Flint city council members contend the plan lacks specifics on how the money would be spent.