Mayor says S.F. may increase rewards given to witnesses

Mayor Gavin Newsom said he is willing to increase a $100,000 reward to encourage murder witnesses to come forward if the current amount does not provide leads.

On Wednesday the Mayor announced The City would offer the rewards for information leading to arrest and conviction in 15 homicides dating back to May 1, 2002. The cases are ones in which police have exhausted every possible lead, according to the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. The announcement came on the heels of The City’s 66th homicide of the year. Last year there were 51 at this time.

The reward is aimed at enticing murder witnesses, who police say are often reluctant to testify for fear of retribution, to cooperate with police and prosecutors. On May 4, law enforcement officials suffered a setback when Terrell Rollins, a witness in a murder case, returned to The City against the instructions of the district attorney’s witness protection program. He was gunned down in front of a garage on Bayshore Boulevard.

<p>Newsom said he understands how difficult it is for witnesses to step forward. On his first week in office, he said a friend of his was shot, and when Newsom visited him he asked for information about the suspects.

“They said, ‘Gavin, no way. I’ve got a mother and a sister. I’m not [talking],’” Newsom said.

Newsom said the increased reward amount might not be necessary because he feels $100,000 is a significant enough amount to encourage witnesses to step forward. He said witnesses could use the money to move their families out of town. The City usually offers a $10,000 reward for information in a homicide case. Newsom said that since he has taken office The City has occasionally offered $25,000 and once offered a $50,000 reward.

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