New campaign will ask everyone to report crime

Soon, Kansas Citians will start seeing billboards and door hangers asking them not to look the other way when they know something about crime. They may even get a knock at their door with a personal appeal.

In about a month, people will go door-to-door in Midtown to say society needs you to report crimes and testify against criminals.

That is part of an $80,000 countywide “Step up, Speak Up; Don’t Look the Other Way” campaign sponsored by COMBAT, the Jackson County anti-drug sales tax.

County Executive Mike Sanders announced it Friday alongside Jean Peters Baker, county prosecutor, and Mike Sharp, county sheriff.

Getting witnesses to come forward in murders and other major crimes has been a constant problem and criminals in the past have even launched their own “don’t snitch” campaigns.

Officials stressed Friday that witnesses are not snitches and crimes get solved with the help of citizens who come forward.

Sanders said a similar COMBAT campaign six years ago helped double the number of calls to the TIPS hotline but the effort faded away.

The new one features 100 volunteers going door-to-door and is intended to reach 50,000 households in the next few months. There will also be billboards, yard signs and hang tags for doors.

And it will not fade, Sanders said. “This becomes a permanent project for COMBAT.”

Peters Baker said her neighborhood prosecution teams will also be going to doors and she stressed that witnesses are not snitches.

“A snitch is a guy or gal who is part of the crime – their hands aren’t clear,” she said. “Usually a snitch comes in in an orange jump suit.”

A witness is someone who has some information on some piece of the crime, she said, “some part of the puzzle.”

They also might have to testify at trial.

“I’m not saying it’s easy but it’s critical – I need that, we need that,” she said.

Sharp also drove the point home.

“If you’re not involved in the crime, you’re not a snitch,” he said. “Parents, brothers and sisters, grandfathers and grandmothers, it’s OK to be a witness.”

As the press meeting dissolved at the community center at 1201 Ewing Ave. on the city’s east side, volunteers walked outside to start their first day of work.


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