PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Nearly a dozen families in Philadelphia say they’re living on the edge and literally dodging bullets because they or a family member have cooperated in criminal investigations. A city councilmember is now collaborating with the sheriff’s department to provide them with a sense of safety.
“They want me dead because he witnessed something,” a Philadelphia mother said.
This Philadelphia mother says she lives in constant fear for her life and the lives of her children after a family member cooperated with authorities in a police investigation.
We are concealing her identity for her protection.
“I don’t sleep,” she said. “I probably get two hours of sleep a day because I’m up at night making sure he can sleep.”
She is one of several families who says they’re being harassed and terrorized in the wake of either their testimony or their family members’ cooperation in criminal cases.
“We’re getting threats. We getting shot at, how are we not victims?” she said.
“We have to do much better protecting our women and children,” Sister Taleah Taylor with the City of Dreams Coalition said.
Taylor, a community activist and anti-violence advocate, is working with these families now seeking the help of Councilmember David Oh.
“Nine mothers who are being victimized, like literally being shot at, physically assaulted because their children had cooperated with law enforcement, testified in court or they themselves had seen or said something,” Oh said.
Oh has gone as far as heading into neighborhoods where these families live.
“I went to a location and the first thing I saw when I went to the house was a lamp post outside one of the houses with clearly a bullet hole in it,” Oh said.
The councilmember is enlisting the help of the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Department hoping to provide safety resources and relocation opportunities to those facing the terror of retaliation.
“We’re looking at how we can help those families that after they cooperate not being left with no way of securing themselves or their families,” Sheriff Rochelle Bilal said, “because if you want people to come out and support law enforcement and testify and be witnesses, then you need to make sure they’re safe then and they’re safe afterwards.”
The Sheriff’s Department says this should be a joint effort between city entities, including police and the district attorney’s office, to come up with plans to keep families who cooperate in criminal cases safe.
They are working out the details now on those plans with many families asking for relocation options.