To help combat organized crime, the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General is looking to develop a stronger witness security program in hopes of encouraging people with knowledge of gang-led crimes – like murder and drug trafficking – to step forward.
The majority of organized crime cases in the province hinge on a single testimony from a suspect’s former accomplice or informant, says the ministry. However, Canada’s current federal application process for witness protection is lengthy, resulting in low witness retention and frustration from investigators.
“People with intimate details of the most serious crimes, or the activities of gangs and organized crime on our streets, should not feel their life will be in danger if they do the right thing and tell police,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General in a release.
“We’re taking action now to help ensure the co-operation of witnesses with new measures that build on federal witness protection.”
BC Specific Program
The province hopes to create a witness security management and support program specifically for BC, that will also support police and Crown prosecutors, rather than relying exclusively on the federal service.
Similar to programs in other provinces, BC hopes to improve witness safety by increasing protection when attending trial and giving testimony, providing new names and identity changes, providing job training, and facilitating treatment of mental health challenges and addictions.
“The witness security act will be one more tool that will help us to destabilize gangs and support prosecutions,” said Kevin Hackett, assistant commissioner, BC RCMP Criminal Operations – Federal, Investigative Services and Organized Crime in a release.
“It reinforces the fact that there can be a successful way for those who choose to exit the gang lifestyle, do the right thing and change their life.”
Program development is already underway, and could be implemented as early as this year or 2020.