year, the CBS Television program 60 Minutes asked several Americans
whether they would call the police if they witnessed a crime. Most said yes, of course they would.
the answer in inner cities is often quite different. There, helping the police can be considered snitching, a
violation of the so-called Code of the Streets. Those who snitch, even more than criminals, are condemned and can
face deadly reprisals.
2004, a rap musician from Baltimore, Maryland, produced a controversial music
video called "Stop Snitching."
In it, young men claiming to be drug dealers threatened violence against
anyone who, to use another street expression, ratted out – or identified – a
criminal to the police.
video got nationwide attention because a professional basketball star, Carmelo
Anthony, also appeared on it. Anthony
said he was only hanging around and had let a friend put him in his video.
Snitching T-shirts that looked like they were riddled with bullet holes soon
became fashionable among urban youths across the country.
who defend the notion that people should keep their mouths shut about crimes
they witness say that police are often the enemy – harassing or falsely
accusing minorities. They say snitches
looking for reward money often finger innocent people.
to the Stop Snitching furor, the Baltimore police created their own video and
T-shirts with the message, "Keep Talking."
last month, in an impoverished Washington, D.C., neighborhood that had been
rocked by a recent wave of street killings, residents held a mock funeral for
what they called the myths of snitching.
murderer is someone to be feared, not respected, one citizen said. Another told the Washington Post that
people who will not stand up and protect their communities lose the right to
complain about neighborhood violence.