The television screen shows a group of unsavory characters breaking into a car. As they take off, one says he is glad no one called the police. "Without people like you," he asks, "where would we be?"
The spot is one of four 30-second public service ads, produced with funds from the National Institute of Justice, that are part of a campaign urging people to "Report, Identify and Testify" if they witness a crime or are victimized.
More than half the cost of producing the ads was picked up by Procter & Gamble Co. and a Chicago advertising agency. Another ad, based on the 1964 Kitty Genovese murder in New York, dramatizes the stabbing of a woman whose neighbors ignore her screams for help.
Two-thirds of all crimes, and more than half of violent crimes, are not reported to police, NIJ Director James K. Stewart said.
Assistant Attorney General Lois Haight Herrington said a presidential task force found that many people have been turned off by the justice system. "Victims told us they would never go through it again because they were treated so terribly," she said. "They were blamed, ignored, dragged down for lineups late at night.
"Cases were continued time and time again after people took off from work. Witnesses would be treated even worse than the victim. People would say 'Why bother?' "
WASTE OF TIME? . . . Both the Justice Department and defense lawyers have objected to the growing powers given special masters hired to hear hazardous-waste lawsuits. While arguing that these masters should not decide major legal issues, the department has also objected to some of their fees, which range up to $250 an hour.
According to Legal Times, in a case involving the Stringfellow Acid Pits in California, retired judge Harry V. Peetris billed the court $79,830 for 319 hours over a six-month period. Justice objected to the $250-an-hour charges, saying the retired judge also enjoyed free office space. But a California court upheld the fees.
CORRIDOR SHOWDOWN . . . There was a mini-confrontation during the dog days of August as aides to Attorney General Edwin Meese III tried to shoo away reporters who were camped outside Meese's fifth-floor office.
A group of black lawmakers and activists from Alabama had alerted the media that they would hold a news conference after meeting with Meese to complain about the administration's civil rights policies. This is an everyday occurrence at the White House, where presidential visitors frequently hold forth for cameras at the West Wing.
But Meese aides thought the arrangement unseemly. "We're not in the business of providing facilities for people who want to use this kind of appointment as a gimmick for getting publicity for themselves," deputy press secretary Patrick Korten said. Reporters countered that since Meese had moved the pressroom from outside his office to the bowels of the building, they were forced to stand guard to make sure they did not miss the visitors.
Tempers cooled when Meese's staff escorted the Alabamians to the first-floor press office and the visitors were somewhat restrained in their comments, producing a story only for the home-state reporters who maintained the vigil.
SWEPT AWAY . . . Chief department spokesman Terry H. Eastland unwittingly ran afoul of the law during a recent weekend dinner in Georgetown. Eastland parked his car behind several others on M Street, unaware that D.C. police recently banned parking there on Friday and Saturday nights. After dinner, Eastland found that police had towed the whole line of cars, including his, which cost him about $80 to retrieve. Eastland complained that the no-parking sign "was at least 20 yards away."