How “Snitch Factor” Hampers Minneapolis Homicide Investigations

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On the streets of north Minneapolis, word travels fast. When the lawyer for a member of the Taliban street gang let it slip that another gang member was cooperating with police and the FBI, former friends soon started calling him by a different name online: “Snitch.” The search warrant from a recent witness tampering case demonstrates how the stigma associated with helping the police is a serious impediment to solving crimes, particularly in the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods where there is a quiet understanding that those who talk will pay a violent price, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The reasons people give vary. Some keep silent out of fear. Others know the person suspected of a crime, or they may have a warrant for their own arrest. Still, some simply don’t trust the police enough.

A recent National Institute of Justice study of the nation’s homicide rate said. “When persons do not trust the police to act on their behalf and to treat them fairly and with respect, they lose confidence in the formal apparatus of social control and become more likely to take matters into their own hands. Predatory violence increases because offenders believe victims and witnesses will not contact the police.” In some neighborhoods, police say that when they start going door to door for information, witnesses develop what detectives sarcastically refer to as “convenient amnesia.” And a wave of anti-police sentiment triggered by the high-profile killings of unarmed black men by officers in Minneapolis and elsewhere has only made it harder to persuade potential witnesses to speak up, others contend. Many people aren’t convinced that police can protect them if they decide to come forward with information.

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