Chief: A lack of cooperation hinders city criminal probes

Fear of retribution. Worries about safety. These might be the motives behind the spate of uncooperative witnesses and victims of serious crimes who long have hampered city police investigative efforts.

With the city trying to solve three recent homicides and one incident of gunfire sprayed at three vehicles at First Avenue and High Street, city Police Chief David J. Young called for help from the public during the city Public Safety Committee meeting Tuesday.

“We need cooperative witnesses and victims of street crimes to work with police,” he told councilmen N. Clifford “Skip” Smith, Don Noviello and Joel Henderson.

Three recent homicides remain unsolved. The most recent shooting involved bullets fired at three vehicles, one moving and two parked, on Jan. 4, police said.

Authorities continue to search for the killer of 31-year-old William Michael Blackwell, who was shot multiple times at close range by a masked gunman outside a business at Boyd and Arch streets on Dec. 30, police said.

Also unsolved is the shooting death of Christopher T. Wilkins, 27, of Philadelphia, who was killed on Aug. 30 at 505 Park Ave., and Basil Hall, 27, of Philadelphia, who was gunned down as he left the Pajama Factory at 1307 Park Ave. on Jan. 9, 2016, police said.

The situation is not only frustrating to police, but also can contribute to overtime for investigators.

“Until witnesses and victims decide to come forth with information concerning these incidents, we can only ask the city police to do so much,” Smith, chairman of the committee, said. “If no one wants to testify or give information, it hinders their investigations, and we can’t expect police to perform miracles when they don’t have the information.”

“I get it that people are afraid of retribution and have seen witnesses intimidated, but even if a witness or victim provides police with anonymous tips, it gives them a means of tracking down information and getting relative information such as timeframes,” Noviello said.

“It’s a tough spot to be in and difficult to resolve,” he said. “One way is to have police interact and more community police to open up better avenues of communication. People shouldn’t have to fear doing the right thing.”