To snitch or not to snitch, to live free or die for the ‘hood


Logo courtesy of - and designed by - my friend Gary whom I met online after he responded to my original April 2007 on why the "Don't snitch" campaign is wrong.

A little over a year ago I wrote a post saying that the so-called “Don’t snitch” street code was – and is – killing black kids. Adults too. And as I mentioned in a follow-up post, that turned out to be one of the most controversial posts I ever put on this blog. To date I don’t believe any other “D” Spot post has generated anywhere near that volume of commentary.

Well it’s one year later and I still haven’t changed my mind. I have heard – and respect -the contrary arguments about how the police are not to be trusted and that we would all do better to solve the problems ourselves instead of giving them license to beat up on black folks some more. About how the fear of confiding anything in the police is simply wrong because of the verifiably twisted historical relationship between the police and black neighborhoods.

You call and they don’t come. And when they do come they treat you like shit. They don’t even bother trying to find folks causing problems, or if they do then they don’t do anything unless the fool killed at least three people. This year.

I live in Detroit, so how could I not know about the historically strained relationship between blacks and the police?

But I think the most persuasive argument I heard was that even if you did manage to get a good police officer to respond to your concern, what about the friends and family of the guy/girl you helped put away? What about your neighbors who now keep you at arm’s length because you have now crossed the unforgivable line? How are you, the person who “snitched” so that your neighborhood – or you personally – would be safer by turning in a known criminal, supposed to deal with the fact that you just might be in more danger after turning in the criminal than you were when that thug was on the wild?

And I confess I don’t have a good answer for that one. I probably should, since I do believe in calling the cops if the cops need to be called, but it’s hard to ignore what can sometimes happen to folks in certain neighborhoods when they stick their necks out trying to do the right thing, only to have their heads cut off.

All I know to say to that is that if we don’t collectively come together as communities and stick our necks out, and demand that the police do more in the neighborhoods we call home, then it will be even worse. Where I live we have a pretty strong neighborhood association where police officers have come to speak to us on a number of occasions. Each time I  thought the dialogue was strong, and I felt the officers came across as guys who honestly wanted be there in any way they could. They even gave us direct lines and cell numbers where we could reach them, and I can say from personal knowledge that those calls get answered.

Because when it gets right down to it, we’re the only and best defense we have against the crime taking place in our neighborhoods. And if we don’t demand that the government which we elect – and fund with our tax dollars – sufficiently respond to our needs and concerns then we only have ourselves to blame for not holding them accountable.

SHAMELESS PLUG: Read my wife’s blogs @ The “D” Spot Redeux and BlackLiberalBoomer.


~ by Keith A. Owens on November 10, 2008.

9 Responses to “To snitch or not to snitch, to live free or die for the ‘hood”

  1. Well honestly I agree that the stop snitching is killing the black community and this is coming from some one who was a die hard believer in street codes, but that was different, even in the 80’s there was honor code amoung criminals were you didnt let your dirt spill over into the lives of innocent. Those days are gone, these cats out here are like wild dogs and they need to be put down, these fools snitch on themselve regurlay anyway why should they expect working class folk to protect them?

    My only concern is that when the police is informed that not enough measures are taken to protect the informant from retribution from the criminals.

  2. I hear you, Mike. And I can definitely understand the die-hard allegiance to street codes. Given what folks had to deal with in the neighborhoods there were some very good reasons for those codes. They were necessary. But like you pointed out, things have changed considerably over the years and we’re only hurting ourselves by turning a blind eye to it. Why in the world should I want to protect/defend somebody who wants to kill me or mine?

    No. F that. They gotta go.

  3. I’m down with the Start Snitchin’ movement. I’ve been telling people for years I’m not trying to covet a criminal. There’s a reason they don’t want you telling on them and it usually involves something criminal. I find that the most non-snitching people are teens. They tend to smarten up when they get their own -ish (family, house, car, etc.) and don’t want anyone taking it without consequences.

  4. Hey Shae.

    Yeah, we are definitely on the same page about this one. And like you say, isn’t it funny how important snitching becomes once YOU’RE the one that gets hit…?
    Thanks for stopping by as always.

  5. If criminals don’t want to get snitched on – they shouldn’t do illegal ish! I’ve always been onboard with the “start snitchin'” movement, myself.

  6. Ms. Kimba,

    That’s the idea isn’t it? Or as the old saying goes, “Don’t start no s—, won’t be none.”

    Thanks for dropping by!

  7. First, I would like to thank you for opening this controversial subject up. Times are differenent than they were and there are many young thugs who simply need to be taken off the street as soon as possible! I’m talking about those who seemingly have no regard for anyone’s life and just makes life miserable for those who respect themselves and others. It is so sad and so scary trying to raise a young person in the good these days. I believe in taking care of our own; but I’d rather see someone taken off the street than to remain loose and kill again and again. And, frankly I don’t have the mentality to kill someone; and I feel blessed I don’t. I don’t even believe in the death penality; but I do believe in punishment and protection of my people. If you get a chance, read this story I wrote a few weeks back . . . it’s true and it leaves me so tired. . .

    Blessings to you and yours. . .

  8. You know, it’s a hard one…but when we have criminals infesting our neighborhoods and we call the police, that, in my opinion is not snitching…that is wanting a better community for our children, grandchildren, neighbors and selves. If we stand for nothing, if we allow the crime to permeate, we are in fact as much of the problem as the thugs who commit the crimes. I’ve noticed that lately a lot of white people have been moving into what was about 2 years ago considered the hood. Although they had money to revitalized the homes, they also revitalized the crime rate in the areas in which their may be one or two white families per block. The reason is because they do not stand for crime. They do not stand for open air drug dealing, and they do call the police. As of yet, I have yet to see retaliation on any of my white neighbors. . . and they are not afraid!!! We really need to get with the program. Great follow up. Thanks for writing and sharing!!!

    • Cordieb,

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments! This really is a provocative issue, but it’s something we really need to address as a community. And you’re so right that if we don’t stand up for our communities then who will?
      Take care.

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