Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Homicides Spur Call to Action

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Homicides Spur Call to Action

Article excerpt

A ST. LOUIS organization wants to change the public's attitudes toward murder, partially by patterning itself after groups like Mothers Against Drunken Driving.

Members of the organization, People Against Murder, believe that the public has become too accepting of homicide and other violence.

"Take a look at so many of our movies, our music, our entertainment," said James H. Buchanan, a former St. Louis police sergeant and former Pagedale police chief who is executive director of PAM.

"These are all indications that this has become part of our lives."

Founded in 1991, the organization grew out of Families Advocating Safe Streets, a support group for families of murder victims founded by Jeanette Culpepper, herself the mother of a victim.

"We wanted this group to be more of a pro-active group," Buchanan said. "We wanted to bring moral and conscientious people together on the problem of murder."

The organization has testified on crime legislation and developed a number of goals that it works to support. One is the implementation of a national witness protection program. Such a program would combine federal, state and local funds to protect witnesses of homicides who often fear they'll be physically harmed if they come forward.

"As it stands now," Buchanan said, "people accused of homicides can go and get witnesses' names, addresses, phone numbers - all of that information is public. They are provided very little protection."

Under the proposal, which Buchanan said was first suggested by the Nixon administration more than 20 years ago, such information would not be immediately available, witnesses would be protected and funds would be available to relocate them when necessary.

The group also would like to see more aggressive prosecution of career violent offenders and a change in the way the legal system treats juveniles.

"There should be a review of how juveniles are treated who commit murder," Buchanan said. "Most states have a certification process in which a hearing is held to determine whether a juvenile should be certified as an adult in a murder case.

"We're saying that whenever there's a murder case, it should be treated as an adult offense. …

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