Citizens often misinterpret or have misconceptions about the difference between people who snitch on another person versus witnesses to a crime.
There is a profound difference between reporting a crime and snitching. Co-conspirators snitch, and are fairly involved in the crime that's being committed. Snitches tattletale on the perpetrators to avoid being accountable for their own actions. A witness, however, is a person who observed a crime in progress, and feels a moral obligation to report what he or she has witnessed. Citizens report and take control of their communities by directing the police through accurate information, because the incident that occurred is serious and dangerous to their communities.
The police and prosecutors in return for citizens' cooperation often respond by making serious efforts to protect and respect those citizens.
For 2-3 years now (if not more) criminals have been taking control of neighborhoods by creating social rules that serve them and divide the community. As citizens, we can no longer idolize outlaws by emulating them, tolerating them or worse, making them rich and insulated.
In the last couple of years our communities have seen the emergence of something known as The No Snitching Campaign, which relates the message that snitches wind up in ditches. This unwritten street culture is spreading across our communities by means of tee shirts, hats, movies, television programs, songs and often the worldwide web. They use these methods in order to send out a clear message of the consequences witnesses will face toward loved ones and/or destruction of property for reporting to the police.
Today, streets gangs have not only adopted these unsavory tactics (similar to those used by organized crime bosses and drugs dealers to intimidate and silence witnesses) but they have gone so far as to arrogantly print out newspaper ads or script the unwritten street law with the intent to spread their messages of hate across the United States of America.
These domestic inner-city terrorists continue to threaten our freedoms and our open society especially in poverty stricken, crime environments where the no snitching mentality thrives. The predominant attitude in these communities, in particular, is that if you see a crime and your report what you witnessed, and then you are a snitch.
But who's labeling witnesses as snitches? The only one who benefits from the no snitching campaign is the criminal who cloud the evidence by blaming others (the witnesses.) Those groups running the no snitching campaign really believe that their unlawful methods will give them leverage and the power to intimidate witnesses. This phenomenon, which is already sweeping this country into silence, will only worsen if these groups aren't stopped from threatening witnesses from reporting criminal activities to the police.
It's going to take the whole community to realize and make it clear that we have a problem infecting our communities and then figure out what our role is in fixing the problem. We have to stand up against the campaign. If not, crime is going to progress.
As well, all officials across the states have to make changes about how their witness protection programs run, and the way the Board of Supervisors approve funds for the hiring of new investigators. The first step is to make citizens feel safe about coming forth as witnesses and that people who witness a crime are protected and not penalized for speaking out against a wrong. Criminals must be made accountable for crimes they enter of their own free will and with malicious intent.
There is no doubt that this no snitching campaign has placed a tremendous burden on our police officers and our legal system's prosecutors, whose hands are tied by frightened witnesses that could otherwise be instrumental in solving criminal cases. But before the authorities can protect witnesses, citizens have to be willing to speak to the police.
However, and because most citizens are not properly protected, they are understandably reluctant to report a crime to the police. Theses witnesses also fear that eventually they will have to testify in a criminal case and in open court. Hence, the witness not only runs the risk of retaliation by being seen talking to the police, but if the witness goes to trial he or she may become more frightened that any member of the accused friends and/or family could follow them to their car or worse, to their home and kill them. Another reasonable fear witnesses have is what if the jury finds the accused not guilty, and then the criminal is back in the streets, living in the witness (or witnesses) neighborhood. What happens then to the witness who struggled to do the right thing? Who protects him or her?
It's not surprising that this campaign of silence, with a staggering number of unsolved cases, not only baffles law enforcement and stifles investigations, but also has caused reluctance on the part of witnesses to report crime events. Yet, without protection for the witnesses given by the officials, these witnesses could only live their daily lives in fear of violent retaliation and ostracism from the communities.
It's not easy for decent citizens who witness a crime, but it's understandable why they are afraid of reporting a crime to the police department. The bottom line is, if witnesses are not protected they are left alone to live in fear of retaliation from those campaigning the no snitching message. If they are not protected and made to feel safe, they will continue to choose silence even if this means living in a high risk, crime environment.
Together and somehow we, the people and the officials have to work to find a way to change the minds of people about the difference between snitching where a criminal gives someone up to save their own skin and witnessing criminal activity. Reporting a crime event is a responsible citizen coming forth with evidence of a crime that has been committed.
What would you do if someone knew who killed your mother or father but was too afraid to report what he or she had witnessed to the police?
We cannot continue to live in a society that supports the rights of criminals, and abandon the rights of citizens. Because, if we sit back and allow this campaign to continue, the only thing we could possibly expect in the future is that criminals will hold our communities hostage and terrorize our neighborhoods.
www.dosnitch.com (You can report a crime via website and remain anonymous.)
www.npr.org (Cracking the No Snitching Code)
www.wiretapmag.org (Deadly Silence - Stop Snitching Fatal Legacy, March 28, 2008)
www.usatoday.com/news/nation (Anti-Snitch Campaign riles police, prosecutors)