Jackson County officials on Friday announced a new campaign to encourage witnesses to crime to step forward and report what they know.
Called “Don’t Look the Other Way,” the program will depend on neighborhood outreach supplemented with media such as yard signs, door hangers and billboards, said Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders.
The campaign hopes to overcome the “don’t snitch” mindset that has permeated some neighborhoods and limited cooperation with law enforcement and prosecutors, he said.
“One of the major issues we have is a failure of people to come forward,” Sanders said.
The program got under way just after a late-morning news conference at the Whatsoever Community Center at 1201 Ewing Ave. in Kansas City. About 100 volunteers went through neighborhoods in Kansas City and Independence to distribute materials and talk about the initiative.
The program hopes to reach 50,000 households in the coming months.
Addressing some of the volunteers, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said neighborhood participation is critical to the program’s success.
“We can’t do our job without your help,” Baker said. “This is a community problem, not a law enforcement problem or a prosecutor problem. I believe that the people in this room can impact this problem.”
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp spoke on behalf of his agency and other area police departments.
“We need people who want to be part of the process,” Sharp said. “Don’t look the other way. … It’s OK to report a crime.”
Officials said the campaign also will work through other parts of the Jackson County COMBAT effort, such as treatment, drug prevention and court programs. But to be successful, “Don’t Look the Other Way” must be sustained for years, Sanders said.
Sanders credited the “Silence is Killing Us” campaign several years ago with doubling the number of calls to the TIPS Hotline.