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March 29, 2006

The anti-snitching "campaign"

Wednesday's USA Today has this extended article about the anti-snitching "campaign" that seems to have become a nationwide issue.  Here is a taste:

Omerta, the Mafia's blood oath of silence, has been broken by turncoat after turncoat. But the call to stop snitching — on other folks in the 'hood — is getting louder.  Is it an attempt by drug dealers and gangsters to intimidate witnesses?  Is it a legitimate protest against law enforcers' over-reliance on self-serving criminal informers?  Or is it bigger than that? ...

Alexandra Natapoff, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, says that, based on federal statistics, one of every four black men from 20 to 29 is behind bars, on probation or on parole, and under pressure to snitch.  She estimates one in 12 of all black men in the highest-crime neighborhoods are snitching.  She says informers strain the social fabric of poor minority neighborhoods, where as many as half the young men have been arrested....

Hence a backlash — "stop snitching."  The slogan appeared in Baltimore about two years ago as the title of an underground DVD featuring threatening, gun-wielding drug dealers...  The black community is divided.  Rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy has blasted the Stop Snitching campaign on the hip-hop group's website....

Whatever its intent, the Stop Snitching movement has galvanized officials already apoplectic about witness reluctance and witness intimidation.... Stop Snitching T-shirts have been banned from a number of courthouses.  Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, whose city recorded the most homicides in a decade last year, threatened to send police into stores to pull them off the shelves.  Following the furor over the Stop Snitchin' DVD, Maryland raised witness intimidation from a misdemeanor to a felony, and Baltimore police made a tape of their own, Keep Talking.  "People have to snitch," says Peter Moskos, a former Baltimore street cop. "That's how criminals get caught."

March 29, 2006 at 01:50 AM | Permalink


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I'm an attorney.

I think behind the whole "stop snitching" is something else entirely. In the neighborhoods where this is going on, going to prison is no longer a rare, shocking event. Fault or evil-ness has little to do with going into custody. You're a minority, you get arrested. Just like that. For too many people in those neighborhoods, and reflected in the neighborhood attitudes, going to prison for many years is merely another life event. Get born, go to school, get married, have kids, go to prison. So many people are in custody or under control of the criminal justice system that hope for something better is gone, and all that is left is some recognition that the system which incarcerates these family members depends on cooperation to continue doing so. IMHO, "stop snitching" is a cry of "enough". I'm not sanguine about the future, for not too far down the road from "Stop snitching" - passive resistance - is active resistance against the police and criminal justice system.

Posted by: scribe | Mar 29, 2006 1:56:44 PM

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Posted by: | Oct 14, 2008 10:59:41 PM

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