What is Snitching?

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Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

We've talked about the "stop snitching" campaign in Baltimore, and the problem of witness intimidation before... but never about what snitching really is. Ronald Moten was accused of snitching (wrongly) back in the 90's, and argues that "not everyone who talks to the police is a snitch." Now, he works to change the code of silence on the streets. We'll talk with him on the show today. And, we want to know what snitching means to you. Is there ever a time you should not talk to the police?



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Police intimidation is a main factor in sewing mistrust in black communities. When police departments use a tactic of harassing law abiding citizens to get information on criminal elements in black communities, this creates an adversarial relationship between the police and community.

Those who comply with the police are betraying their community which is harassed by the police department and therefor snitches.

Police need to work with communities and not racially profile people to help out.

Sent by mike | 2:49 PM | 8-20-2007

What happens when "haters" see people testifying...Then they snitch to the "bad guys" whos snitching and threaten their lives? Who protects snitchers.

Sent by anoymous | 2:52 PM | 8-20-2007

I live in Baltimore City, and I would be reluctant to talk to the police for fear of having to testify in a criminal case. First you run the risk of retaliation by being seen talking to the police, then if you go to trial, any number of the accused friends and family could follow you home or to your car and kill you. Finally, if it is a jury trial; it's unlikely that the accused is found guilty because the usual jury pool is so biased against police that they need video tape of the crime to believe that the accused should be found guilty. Read about the Dawson Family and see what happens to snitches.

Sent by Mike | 2:53 PM | 8-20-2007

Why Not Snitch? Is it not good for Society for criminals to tell on eachother for whatever reason? Doesn't that lead to more criminals going to jail?

Sent by Jonpaul | 2:59 PM | 8-20-2007

Comments by the moderator make "snitching" sound as if they were class oriented... is it not a differentiation between right and wrong, when he mentions the fact he or she might have a family to support. I am sure the question would not be asked of a public offical in Washington.

Sent by Erick | 3:00 PM | 8-20-2007

Regardless of the terminology (snitching, tattle-telling(, it seems the fundamental difference between what is--or at least what should be--viewed as good or bad behavior is the persons underlying motivation. Selfish 'telling' is not admirable and is less reliable than information from disinterested people or especially people that have the courage to stand up at their own risk.

"The police are the public, and the public are the police." -Sir Robert Peel

Sent by Jason | 3:08 PM | 8-20-2007

The "stop snitching" campaign is yet another disgusting example of the practice of embracing dysfunction as a virtue in the Black community. Contrary to popular belief, there's no deep meaningful message that will be sent to police by refusing to cooperate with them. It's rediculous to think that refusing to protect one's self from criminals, who are just as anti-Black as the most racist police officer, is going to actively curb police brutatlity. Allowing the word "snitch" to be applied to law-abiding citizens falls right into line with embracing criminality as part of Black culture.

Sent by Karmella | 3:28 PM | 8-20-2007

Your guest has a good approach to fighting crime. By defining "snitching", people can change social attitudes . I agree with his comments and liked his example of people standing up for their "community" by mentioning inmates who make their housing units safe by reporting threats. There is a profound difference between reporting and snitching. Citizens report and co-conspirators snitch. Citizens MUST take control of their communities by directing the police through accurate information. Police and prosecutors MUST respond by making serious efforts to protect and respect citizens. Criminals are taking control by creating social rules that serve THEM and divide the rest of the community. We can no longer idolize outlaws by emulating them, tolerating them, or worse making them rich and insulated.

Sent by Jim / Salt Lake City (formerly Boston) | 3:53 PM | 8-20-2007

I believe that we have to change the minds of people in our society about "Snitching" and I believe Ronald Moten has nailed it right on the head. People should not be afraid to want to live in an environment free of crime. What if someone knew who killed your mother or father but they were afraid to report this to the proper authorities. We cannot continue to live in a society that supports the rights of criminals. I just visited a site online "DoSnitch.com" where you can anonymously report crime. What a great concept!

Sent by Angela | 12:02 PM | 8-21-2007

One of the callers to the show mentioned that they called the police to report speeders. There's a difference between reckless driving and speeding. Someone putting on makeup or gabbing away on a cellphone while not speeding could be considered reckless. Does he sic the police on these offenders also? I've called police when I've witnessed women being beaten by (in)significant others. But I couldn't imagine calling the cops on someone who was simply speeding. I would call if they were putting other people's lives at risk: switching lanes abruptly with no signal, driving as if drunk. But just for speeding? How many miles over the limit does the person have to be going? How about changing lanes with no signal? How about going to slow in the left lane? Sorry, I completely agree with reporting violent crime, but calling to report some who's simply speeding by you seems not to pass the tattle-tale test. Just my two cents.

Sent by BrooklynDave | 1:29 PM | 8-22-2007