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St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office looking into upping security for witnesses

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) - There are few things more frustrating to law enforcement than witnesses who won`t cooperate, but what would happen if those witnesses could be protected?

'It is incredibly frustrating when people won`t come forward and tell us what they know,' said Mary Pat Carl, lead homicide prosecutor is the St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office.

Carl says having no witnesses equals having no case, which for a while appeared to be the case in Monday night's shooting that ended with a two-year-old boy shot in the arm by a bullet that went through the back of a car.

At first, the adults in the car were uncooperative with police, but now they have started tell detectives what they know.

'When you respond to these scenes and see firsthand how many people scatter, how many people don`t come forward you start to look for ideas of how can we change this,' Carl said.

And one of those ideas being discussed is offering witnesses a higher level of security.

'There are many jurisdictions in the U.S. that have a formalized witness protection program and I think that`s where we need to move to,' Carl said.

The circuit attorney's office says it believes its one year old program of sending prosecutors to crime scenes has helped get more people to tell what they know, but that a formal and funded witness protection program is what's needed.

'We are talking about having basic systems in place, either temporarily moving somebody or permanently moving someone or simply having ways they can be secure in their own homes,' Carl said.

According to a report last year in the Boston Herald, on average Boston spent about $2,100 per case for witness protection, while Denver spent $7,500 and Philadelphia spent $9,100.

'We want nothing more than to get justice when something happens and the only way to do that is to have people come forward and tell us what they know,' Carl said.

Carl is running to replace Jennifer Joyce as Circuit Attorney and she says she plans to make witness protection part of her platform. But she says the idea was under discussion in the office before she announced her candidacy.