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As reported by South Coast Today:

By Brian Fraga
Standard-Times staff writer
May 13, 2007 6:00 AM

A 19-year-old New Bedford man was walking on Sawyer Street May 4 when a group of young men attacked him with a metal pipe, breaking his jaw in three places and sending him to the hospital.

His offense? Snitchin'.

The man had spoken with police officers investigating a shooting for which Juan Figueroa-Pacheco, a reputed Latin Kings gang member, was later arrested. Though he may have helped police arrest an allegedly violent gang member, the man committed the cardinal sin of the "stop-snitching" street code and paid a price.

Just a day later, more than 20 people were in the vicinity of 31 Ashley St. when William Lomas, 29, of New Bedford, was stabbed in the neck, chest and back during a fight. But when questioned by police, Mr. Lomas and other witnesses refused to say who stabbed him.

These examples underscore a growing problem for police: witnesses, and sometimes even victims, of violent crimes do not want to come forward because they are afraid of the consequences.

Harassing telephone calls, smashed car windows, verbal threats and physical assaults are just some of the risks a witness faces for cooperating with law enforcement.

"Being a witness just causes problems," said Anthony, a 24-year-old Boston resident who was in New Bedford Thursday for a court appearance. "That's how people get killed."

Anthony, who requested that his last name not be used, said he would not talk to police even if he saw a violent crime, because of what could happen to him.

"Any person who lifts a finger to help the cops is not gonna live a long time," he said. "People have no remorse for life. I'd advise everybody not to talk."

That sentiment frustrates police officials and prosecutors, who say investigations are being thwarted by witnesses who either do not divulge information or change their testimonies during a trial because of intimidation tactics from a defendant's friends or relatives.

"It's a very difficult environment to be a police officer," New Bedford Police Chief Ronald Teachman said. "The whole 'stop snitching' thing has gone crazy. It's a problem for police across the country."

History of intimidation

The "Stop Snitching" slogan first noticeably appeared in Baltimore in 2004 as the title of an underground DVD that featured gun-wielding drug dealers promising deadly consequences for "snitches." The video had an appearance by NBA All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony standing next to a self-confessed drug dealer who promised he would take care of snitches by "putting a hole in their head."

This street code is reminiscent of the infamous Mafia "omerta," a code of silence that was often enforced by killing "turncoats" who spoke with authorities.

Today's enforcers of the "snitchin'" street code can be just as ruthless.

"The intimidation factor on the streets is awful," said Michael Santos, a local filmmaker whose 14-year-old brother, Daniel "D.J." Correia, was killed in a 1994 drive-by shooting at the United Front housing development. Mr. Santos, 38, said he knows some people in the community and in jail consider him a snitch because he testified during his brother's murder trial.

"I don't understand," he said. "The culture is getting so bad. People on the streets will look at a drug dealer, somebody selling heroin and cocaine, destroying their community, and praise them because of the nice cars they drive. But if somebody snitches, they're an enemy of the community.

"It's become a culture where it's no longer cool to snitch, no matter what," Mr. Santos said. "Yes, there are times when some things are better left unsaid, but there are times where you have to say something."

Mr. Santos alluded to a deep level of mistrust in the black community toward police. Part of the problem has been law enforcement's reliance on informants to "rat out" suspected drug dealers and gang members. Often, these informants are defendants themselves who stand to have their sentences reduced by cooperating with police.

In 2004, a Boston man created a Web site, Whosarat.com, that posts pictures and profiles of suspected local, state and federal informants and undercover police officers.

The police use of self-interested informants only breeds resentment, Mr. Santos said.

"To me, a snitch is somebody going out with a friend and then ratting out his friend to get out of trouble," he said. "At one time, the police were looked at as an occupying force, and 'no snitching' was actually utilized by the Black Panthers to fight against unjust tactics. But now, it's totally mistaken."

'It's like crime itself'

Today, the "snitch" label is wielded against anyone suspected of cooperating with police under any circumstances. Once primarily associated with domestic violence cases, witness intimidation is becoming as prevalent as gun-related crimes, New Bedford Police Capt. Richard Spirlet said.

"Intimidation has always been around, but it seems to be more so now," he said. "You see it in people changing their statements or backing down. You know at some point somebody got to that witness."

Plymouth County District Attorney Tim Cruise said witness intimidation is a growing problem that is complicating prosecutors' efforts everywhere.

"We've had cases where people testify one thing in grand juries, then during a trial, they flip their testimony," Mr. Cruise said. "It's very challenging to the prosecution of a case. It really does create a real hostile and dangerous environment for the witnesses that do come forward. Obviously, they're very concerned."

Bristol County District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter said he believes witness intimidation is more common today than ever.

"It's a major problem here in Bristol County, across the state of Massachusetts, across the country; but I think it's a problem we can do much better at," he said.

Intimidation may have been a factor during the 2005 murder trial of Manuel Silva, 23, who was charged with the 2002 shooting death of Ryan Aguiar. Jurors acquited Mr. Silva, but some close to the case speculated the jurors feared gang retribution. Suspected gang members were present in the courtroom throughout the trial. The Standard-Times sought a list of the jurors' names and addresses in an effort to question whether fear influenced their verdict, but the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court denied the newspaper's request.

Regarding witnesses intimidation, Mr. Sutter said he believes there are ways to "improve the situation."

"In a way it's like crime itself — you're never going to eradicate it, but you can find a better way to fight it," he said.

The Legislature passed an anti-gang bill last year that created a statewide witness protection program. A pending bill that would make witness intimidation a felony, and allow minors to be charged as adults for intimidating a witness or juror.

"We're protecting witnesses through relocation," Mr. Sutter said. "Another way to protect them is to severely and aggressively prosecute witness intimidation. We're doing that."

code of silence

The "no snitching" ethos has been reinforced by some hip-hop artists who espouse the code to maintain their street credibility, otherwise known as "keeping it real."

In an interview last month on "60 Minutes," rapper Cam'ron said he would not tell police if he knew his next-door neighbor was a serial killer. He said cooperating with an investigation would hurt his record sales and compromise his physical safety.

Hip-hop star Busta Rhymes refused to talk to police when one of his bodyguards was shot and killed outside a Brooklyn recording studio in February 2006. Police said the rapper and as many as 50 other people may have seen the shooting, but none of them came forward. Silence also followed the murders of rappers Jam Master Jay, Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G.

"We all know the culture," Capt. Spirlet said. "It's in the music. You don't snitch, you don't talk. The kids feel it's not a cool thing to snitch. They'll take care of it themselves. That's the street code."

Mr. Sutter said it is "superficial" to solely blame rap music for the proliferation of witness intimidation.

"That may be part of it, but that's not the entire explanation," he said. "It gets into areas like alienation, not just from government, but from the DA's office, the police. There's a feeling of being disconnected, and also being scared."

Morris Kelly, a hip-hop commentator for the Web site Eurweb.com, said the code originates in prison, where problems between inmates are handled internally.

"In prison, it's understood that problems, issues and retribution are handled among the inmates," Mr. Kelly said. "The police are not your friends. You don't do anything to curry favor with the guards or the warden. If you see somebody get shanked in the yard, that's not your business. You don't say anything."

Mr. Kelly said this translates directly into urban culture, where more often than not, people view authority as an overseer not to be trusted. Take into account the historically strained relationship between minorities and law enforcement, and you have a basis for the no-snitching code to take off.

Mr. Kelly said he believes the no-snitching mantra has become an excuse for lawlessness.

"It makes it impossible for substantive change in terms of crime and lawlessness," he said. "If you have a community that is not going to work with law enforcement, then inevitably, people exhibiting lawlessness will remain king."

'A far way to go'...
 

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Continued

...The street code angers New Bedford resident Phyllis Lopes, whose grandson, Cecil Lopes III, was killed in a gang shooting Oct. 31, 2004. She berated a teenage boy last year for wearing a "Stop Snitching" T-shirt, an experience that confused her about the city's youths.

"It shows me that our city has a far way to go," she said. "Are we really reaching who we should be reaching? I know we're reaching some kids, but are we reaching the hard-core kids that need the help?"

Chief Teachman said "we have to retrain our youth" and deprogram them to stop considering it a badge of honor to not speak with police. Though surveillance equipment can help an investigation, it is no replacement for witness statements.

"The best police work comes from having a partnership with the community," he said.

Contact Brian Fraga at [email protected]

The story can be found at; http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070513/NEWS/705130315

- Janq

Personal Note: This 'Stop Snitchin' crap is bullshit!
I'm quite upset with my community, the Black community, toward a large and notable percentage of youth and people my age who should know better that are promoting this crap ass idea on the streets. Snitching has always been a no-no at school and questionable on a case by case basis in our adult lives. But it's now been taken far too far. Yes for many within their own specific communities as much is complicated especially for those who practically live in an ongoing dorm like lifestyle where your neighbor is all up in your business and you theirs. I choose to not live that way. But still at the end of the day if a person hurts or worst murders your own and you know something about it then talk to the damn cops. Get a bitch locked up! It's not wrong to right a wrong. It's wrong to sit idly by and let the wrong go unpunished...to do more wrong.
Speaking completely frankly this is just another means for the Black community to further reduce itself from the American landscape. I would not be surprised if our numbers of non system related civilian persons are reduced by 25% within the next 15 yrs. thanks to proliferation of crime, murder, and drugs. We are making ourselves to be even less relevant and IMHO more of a national joke, nay shame, and we wonder outloud why we're still on the backside of the opportunity ladder. My predecessors and those before them fought, cried, bled, and died for what? For this?!
I'm so mad about this, and saddened too.

"Have you forgotten that once we were brought here, we were robbed of our names, robbed of our language, we lost our religion our culture our God and many of us by the way we act we even lost our mind." - Dr. Khalid Abdul Muhammad
 

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something straight out of the hbo series "the wire"
 

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well its messed up. thats for sure. i think it has less to do with the Black community and more to do with people not standing up for themselvs. The Italians did/do it, the hispanics did/do it, the only reason Blacks get more face time is because of the ratios of black gang members to italian and hispanic.

its the community, not the lack of law enforcement that easily allows this shit to go down. the cops do the best they can with the material they are provided. if civilians armed themselves to even the odds and stood together against this crap it would be an exponentially tougher target for these gangs to intimidate. one person against a gang is odds no one would be willing to take. But, because people have this stupid ass "cooperating with an investigation would compromise his physical safety" shit going through there head it wont change itself. people are all me, me, me. every now and again you have to stick your neck out to do something right. but the odds don't have to be so skewed. i bet if that snitch that got his jaw broken was packing a .40 the story would have been a bit different. Gang members are NOT complete idiots. nor do they consider there own lives worthless. they aren't going to attack a group of 20 armed civys for one snitch time and time again. yeah, maybe once. maybe a few times if they feel its really worth the effort. but not for every little drug deal and BS "snitch".

but i suppose standing up for your own community and the right to live a decient life isent always worth fighting for. its worth writing news articles and wasting time blaming someone else for. yes, boo hoo crime is bad and cops arent super heroes. grow the fuck up and do something about it.



as a side note, it thought this line was great.
The "no snitching" ethos has been reinforced by some hip-hop artists who espouse the code to maintain their street credibility, otherwise known as "keeping it real."

when i read that, i pictured Dave Chapelle in his white man character standing behind a podium and using his index and middle fingers to do the quotation motion in the air.


/bring on the flames!
 

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"People have no remorse for life."

Hit the nail on the head...


I think we are witnessing the fall of society... Its not going to get any better...
 

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of course people do. they just value there own higher then anyone else's. no sense of honor anymore. doing the RIGHT thing takes a back seat to doing whats good for #1
 

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"underground DVD that featured gun-wielding drug dealers promising deadly consequences for "snitches." The video had an appearance by NBA All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony standing next to a self-confessed drug dealer who promised he would take care of snitches by "putting a hole in their head."

So why exactly is Carmelo Anthony still playing basketball?
 

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because of the * and the fine print that says

the views of the individuals depectited in this video are not necessarily those of Carmelo Anthony or the NBA. or some such rubbish.
 

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what a bunch of crap.

I don't believe in the gangsta lifestyle but I'm gonna be in the video cuz I'm from the streetsand I'm a badass. So he should be shot for being a poser instead of kicked out of the NBA for being affiliated with a gang.
 
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