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Particularly in violent and gang-related crime, the same individual may, at different times, be a victim, a witness, and an offender. Historically, witness intimidation is most closely associated with organized crime and domestic violence, but has recently thwarted efforts to investigate and prosecute drug, gang, violent, and other types of crime.
In addition, research has shown that a desire for privacy, a desire to protect the offender from criminal prosecution, emotional attachments, economic dependence, or a desire to protect children may also deter victims of domestic violence from cooperating with police (Felson et al. Witness intimidation takes many forms, including: Threats are much more common than actual physical violence and are in fact just as effective in deterring cooperation. Although some witnesses experience a single incident of intimidation, intimidation may also involve an escalating series of threats and actions that become more violent over time. Other witnesses do not experience intimidation directly, but rather believe that retaliation will occur if they cooperate with police.
This guide focuses on the issues and responses that are most relevant to police, although useful resources for prosecutors are highlighted where appropriate.
Witness intimidation plays a role in many types of crime and is related to other problems that police encounter during the course of an investigation.
Witness intimidation, however, is not the same as repeat victimization.
Although in both cases the same offenders may be responsible for multiple events, their motives are different.