Is the “stop snitching” campaign an attempt by drug dealers and gangsters to intimidate witnesses, or a a legitimate protest against law enforcers’ over-reliance on self-serving criminal informers, asks USA Today? David Kennedy of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York says, “There’s such animosity toward the police in some urban communities that even people who aren’t afraid, and who hate crime, still feel cooperating is something good people don’t do,” Kennedy says. The code of silence, he says, “is breaking out in a way we’ve never seen before.”
Why is an unwritten rule printed on thousands of T-shirts? Over the past two decades, law enforcers have made more drug arrests and turned more defendants into informers than ever before. Informers are a necessary evil, says Maurita Bryant, a 29-year veteran of the Pittsburgh Police Department: “If a dealer needs to make a deal, he’ll tell on his mother. It may not be right, but it’s all we have.” Some informers who are allowed to remain free commit more crimes; some return to crime after shortened prison terms; some frame others, or tell prosecutors what they want to hear. The Northwestern University Law School’s Center on Wrongful Convictions, 51 of the 111 wrongful death penalty convictions since the 1970s were based in whole or in part on testimony of witnesses with an incentive to lie.