Apr 25 06 4:57 PM

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Apr 25, 2006 12:24 pm US/Eastern

Students Encouraged To Speak Up Against Crime

Robin Mackintosh

(CBS 3) PHILADELPHIA Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham launched a new offensive Tuesday to fight the battle of witness intimidation in the city. It’s an effort to show teens the pen is mightier than the gun.

Abraham and other authorities are urging high school students not to be a tool in the corruption of justice and have launched the ”Step Up, Speak Up Creative Writing Contest” to help aid in their fight.

“Young people are the people who are essentially being killed and killing in this city of Philadelphia. The youngest age homicide victim can be anywhere from pre-teens to early teens,” explained Abraham.

Abraham and other city officials are hoping to encourage Philadelphians to step up and speak up against violence and crime in the community. The students will have to demonstrate the importance of coming forward as a witness to a crime.

The campaign is the city’s response to subtle forms of witness intimidation that haven taken place over the past several months. Most recently a father was arrested and jailed after threatening his 16-year-old daughter, a witness in the Faheem Thomas-Childs trial.

Three Philadelphia high school students will be chosen as winners to receive cash prizes.

“We will offer youngsters prizes of $150, $100, or $75 for first, second, and third place essays or poems,” said Abraham.

The Step Up, Speak Up program was launched last January in an effort to counter the popular “Don’t Snitch” T-shirts, that send what law enforcement says is the wrong message.

Acknowledging fear is the biggest enemy, the D.A. and the US Attorney’s officer says they have an extensive witness protection program and can moves a witness across country or just across town.

“We can move you if you wish, that very day,” said Abraham.

Abraham says submissions are now being accepted and must be post marked by May 15, 2006. The winners will be announced June 2, 2006.

Eligibility Criteria for Each Submission:

• Submissions must be the original work of a high school student in any of the Philadelphia public, private, parochial, or charter schools.

• Submitted essays must be at least 2 typed, double-spaced pages and poems must be at least 3 stanzas that demonstrate creativity and express the importance of stepping up and speaking up as witnesses against violent crime in one’s community. Written works should explain how stepping up helps stop crime in our communities and how speaking up takes criminals off of our streets.

Mail forms to:

Mr. Christopher B. Sample
District Attorney’s Office
3 South Penn Square
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Or send via email to:

[email protected]

For more information visit www.StepUpSpeakUp.com.