April 28, 2007
In recent years, there has been a tremendous outcry against “snitching,” the practice in which gang members serve as informants for the police, in exchange for money or immunity from prosecution. Apart from community protests, resistance to snitching has become a cultural movement; clothing featuring the phrase “stop snitchin’” has spread to the point that it often is worn by schoolchildren, a section of society that police rarely recruit as informants. Yet, the pervasiveness of the “stop snitchin’” campaign inside and outside of heavily be-snitched neighborhoods belies the fact that snitching remains an essential tool of law enforcement, a tool that many supporters of the campaign would be worse off without.
To begin with, who exactly started the whole “stop snitchin’” phenomenon? A quick search of Wikipedia reveals that “stop snitchin’” originates from a shoddily-made DVD of the same name, put together by noted lowlife Rodney Thomas (and featuring a guest appearance by Carmelo Anthony, currently the Denver Nuggets’ small forward), in which Thomas threatens rival dealers who might otherwise consider cooperating with the authorities against him. Given that Thomas, who is now in prison for assault, received a greatly reduced sentence for pleading guilty and cooperating with authorities, one can be forgiven for seeing the entire “stop snitchin’” enterprise as less than totally legit.
Furthermore, if TV has taught us anything, it is that snitching has its benefits, and not just for the snitchee. For instance, on the Shield, Detective Vic Mackey runs a cottage industry of snitches (referred to as criminal informants or CI’s), which allows him to contain the frequent flare-ups between neighborhood gangs and avert a bloodbath. Were Mackey not to have said CI’s, one can be sure that he would still find a way to get the information he needed, but it would likely be from beating it out of at least twice as many people, some of whom might be innocent. Thus, the more that gang members snitch, the less decent residents of the neighborhood have to worry about getting caught in the cross-fire, or for that matter, the less they have to worry about accidentally getting on Mackey’s bad side.
Finally, one must consider the kind of people who support the “stop snitchin’” campaign. Studies have shown that the audience for rappers who lionize the thug life and actively promote the “stop snitchin’” message doesn’t come from the neighborhoods where snitching (real and imaginary) actually takes place. Instead, the majority of this audience consists of teenage white kids from the suburbs, who not only think that they know what’s best for inner-city neighborhoods, but would most likely run away screaming if they were confronted with either a thug or snitch in real life.
So, the next time that you consider buying a fashionable “stop snitchin’” t-shirt, consider the consequences. Buying the t-shirt gives your tacit endorsement to a movement founded by hypocrites. It also tells people that you’d prefer it if the cops indiscriminately beat them for information and looked askance at the first sign of gang warfare, rather than pulling a McNulty and outsmarting the bad guys. But if logic and reason aren’t enough to deter you, think about the kind of company that t-shirt would put you in. Do you really want to be mistaken for some ofay kid who listens to Young Jeezy? It’s enough to make you start snitchin’.