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The Stop Snitching Phenomenon: Breaking the Code of Silence
By Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
Published: 06/15/2009

Chain boltcutters Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt from "The Stop Snitching Phenomenon: Breaking the Code of Silence" project, which was conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), and supported by Cooperative Agreement Number 2007-CK-WX-K025 awarded by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice.

The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), with support from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (the COPS Office), is pleased to present this report addressing the “stop snitching” phenomenon that has been glorified in entertainment and sports industries and is a significant issue in some law enforcement jurisdictions. The threatening nature of the stop snitching message intimidates witnesses and erodes trust between communities and police by undermining police efforts to involve communities in preventing and combating crime. This threatens police agencies’ ability to prevent and solve crime because it impedes investigations, arrests, and convictions, and could severely erode the criminal justice system. This problem exceeds the boundaries of traditional witness intimidation and is overwhelming for many police departments.

On numerous occasions, the COPS Office has brought together federal agencies, representatives from the private sector, law enforcement leaders from around the country, and neighborhood leaders invested in their communities to explore solutions to violent crime and social disorder issues. Most recently, on March 6, 2008 in a COPS Office-supported PERF Executive Session titled “Stop Snitching: Policing in a New Era,” key stakeholders explored the issues of the stop snitching phenomenon, identified promising practices, and developed potential solutions to the problem. The discussions included innovative methods for counteracting the intimidating messages and the central role that community policing principles play in responding to this unspoken code of silence.

Through this project, we learned that many communities, police leaders, and prosecutors have been working on the stop snitching problem, and that many of the initiatives they have undertaken have had an impact. The programs represent promising practices for reversing the influence of the stop snitching campaign. Resources for preventing witness intimidation and for establishing witness protection programs available to law enforcement have helped encourage witnesses to come forward and have helped agencies to protect their safety. Agencies highlighted in this report are developing strategies that can counter the stop snitching problem, foster trust between law enforcement and communities, increase clearance rates, and remove violent offenders from communities. The report addresses the factors that have led to the stop snitching movement, what makes the message stick, and what can be done to take back the communities affected by it.

We hope that you will find the report informative and useful as you take on the challenge of restoring confidence in the police and the justice system in neighborhoods where such confidence may be lacking. Together, our goal will be to ensure that crime victims and witnesses once again will be willing and eager to work in partnership with their local law enforcement agencies to do what they can to bring offenders to justice.

Carl R. Peed
Former Director, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
Chuck Wexler
Executive Director, Police Executive Research Forum

Download the full report


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