New program to help protect witnesses - WNEM TV 5

New program to help protect witnesses

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SAGINAW, MI (WNEM) -

Authorities said they're making strides against violent crime in a Mid-Michigan city and they said cooperation between law enforcement and the community is making a huge difference.

Jeanette Byers' 13-year-old nephew was murdered five years ago and it still haunts her.

"He got shot down in the street. That was my sister's second child that died. They never found out what happened," Byers said.

After all this time, she said she still has hope that someone with information will speak up.

"Please come forward, my sister needs to know and a lot of other mothers need to know what happened to their kids," Byers said.

That may one day happen with a new program introduced by the Saginaw County Prosecutor's Office.

The goal is to get witnesses to come forward when they know something and feel safe doing so.

"The biggest problem we have, people are afraid to come forward due to the fact the people they are coming to testify against are very dangerous people," John McColgan said.

The program is called SWAP, or Saginaw Witness Assistance Program. The primary focus is to make sure witnesses and victims are kept out of town or even relocated, while a case is being investigated and waiting to go to trial.

"They would call and ask for some assistance and then it would be determined whether or not that could be given and what type it would be," McColgan said.

The program is not quite like a witness protection program, they won't get new identities, but instead they'll be put up someplace safe and protected in order to testify.

Byers said she hopes the program is successful for families like hers and others.

"It's going to take everybody. We want our neighborhoods back, we need them back," she said.

The program is funded through tax deductible donations.

If you would like to donate to the program call 989-759-1686, ext. 223.

If you are a victim or a witness that would like to participate in the program call 989-790-5561.

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