Where have all the witnesses gone?

by Jody Miller on January 24, 2013

This week on NewsNite we explore the impact of violent crime in our communities and how, when witnesses don’t come forward, those crimes too often remain unsolved and those criminals are left free to roam our streets.

I have to thank my NewsNite colleague Phil Trexler for an insightful story in a recent issue of the Beacon Journal. In that story, Phil wrote that last year in Akron there were 25 homicides, 11 of which were unsolved as of the beginning of this month. That story prompted me to enlist the help of three panelists to better explain why this is happening and what is being done to change those statistics.

Akron attorney Ed Gilbert, president of the Akron-Canton Barristers Association, was the first call I made. I asked Mr. Gilbert to be part of the panel, given his work as an active participant in the Community Witness Safety forums. Phillip Young, a law enforcement veteran and the City of Akron’s Independent police auditor, was the next professional I reached. He became a willing participant not only on the panel but in helping me to reach another key part of our discussion (more on that below). And I reached out to Michael Mier, Copley Police Chief, to be fill out our panel of three given his law enforcement work and his role as head of the Summit County Crimestoppers.

My three guests explained some of the reasons witnesses are reluctant to provide information that could help solve many crimes. It boils down to a combination of fear (of reprisal or harm), mistrust of police, and the “no snitch” mentality that Phil reported on in his story. We talk about the kind of impact this has – not only on criminals not being brought to justice, but on the community at large – in terms of safety and psyche. They all share information about Summit County Crimestoppers, providing the details about how witnesses can provide – anonymously and with payment – information that could help in solving crimes. That information is also here on their website and by phone at (330) 434-2677.

As an adjunct to this program, I had a chance (through Phil Young’s intercession) to meet with and interview Cynthia Ivery, whose son Henry was gunned down on Dec. 11, 2011 and whose murder is still unsolved. She is such a brave lady, sharing her story and her efforts to find the killer of her son. Mrs. Ivery talks about what it’s like to live with not knowing who was responsible for actions that turned her family’s life upside down and why “silence” has become so prevalent in the black community. It’s heartbreaking to hear her talk about the need for closure and then ask for help from anyone who may know anything to help police solve Henry’s murder.

For me, it was a most interesting program about a topic on which I was not well-informed. I hope it provides viewers with some insight and that it potentially reaches someone who will feel compelled to come forward to help the Ivery family come to peace.

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