Victims of crime allowed to decline prosecution if they sign special form

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Did you know crime victims in Wilmington can officially opt out of cooperating with an investigation? It happens more than you might think and it is frustrating to police.

Hundreds of crime victims have officially “declined prosecution” over the past few years, but in some cases, they don’t have a choice.

“Their friends would retaliate against them, or that the gang that they’re involved in would somehow retaliate against them for cooperating with law enforcement,” said Captain Thomas Tilmon with the Wilmington Police Department.

These are concerns Tilmon says could be preventing victims of crime from giving law enforcement crucial details.

“Some of the other mindset, is ‘I’m not going to tell the police, cause I don’t want the police to handle it. We’re going to handle it. We handle our own,'” Tilmon added.

He also says in some cases victims have the right to choose whether or not they want to cooperate, or sign what’s called a Declined Prosecution form.

“The difficult part that we have in a lot of these crimes is that, there’s a cultural saying within the poor communities in Wilmington, that snitches get stitches,” Tilmon expressed.

He says it is a troubling trend, but a relatively small one. 311 victims have declined prosecution from 2016 – 2019 out of thousands of cases.

Also, in murder cases, there’s no opting out.

“It doesn’t matter. Even if a victim’s family says, ‘We want to decline prosecution,’ We’re still going to investigate those homicides in serious cases. Even despite a victim or a victim’s family declining prosecution,” Tilmon staeted.

Tilmon says it can be frustrating when there is not enough evidence.

“The police aren’t miracle workers. We don’t have crystal balls,” Tilmon stated.

He says witness accounts are key to solving crimes. When the victim does not cooperate, it makes it so much harder and often leads to more violence.

Categories: Community, Local, New Hanover