Fund created to protect criminal witnesses running dangerously low

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There is a saying in law enforcement, tips lead to arrests but witnesses lead to convictions. 

"I think there is a misconception that people don't want to testify or snitches get stitches," said Andy Arena, head of the Detroit Crime Commission. "The reality is people just don't want to die."

Seven years ago Andrew Arena says the Detroit Crime Commission was formed to fill in gaps in law enforcement. 

"Coming over from the FBI one of the first things I noticed was there was no way to protect witnesses," he said.

To make sure witnesses were kept safe, the staff at the Wayne County Prosecutors office would often pass the hat or use their own money to put witnesses up in hotels and pay for meals to keep them off the street. 
"Get them out of the neighborhood, get them away from the threat and allow them to testify in safety," Arena said.

In 2012 "Project Safeguard" was born, now prosecutors had funds to continue to take care of star witnesses in major cases. 

Unlike the federal Witness Protection Program, the Wayne County Safe Guard doesn't relocate people permanently. The goal is to keep people safe so they can ultimately come to court and testify. 

The relocation typically lasts a few days to a few weeks, depending on the case. 

"It certainly helped them nail a few perpetrators that have committed some heinous crimes," Arena said.

But the program is also running low on money.

"We are always looking for donations," Arena said. "This thing runs on the community supporting it, so anyone that wants to help the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office we would certainly support it."

A GoFundMe account has been created or go directly through the Detroit Crime Commission. Arena says so far, project has done what its designed to do.

"We haven't lost one yet, we have a pretty good track record," Arena said.

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