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The Snitching Study

Page history last edited by jcruzad1@ccp.edu 13 years, 7 months ago Saved with comment


The Snitching Project


The Snitching Project, led by Dr. Rick Frei, is an ongoing student-driven interdisciplinary research initiative aimed at developing a better understanding of the snitching phenomenon and facilitating community discussion through education. The project began in 2007 as part of an Applied Psychology course project at the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP). Students conducted focus groups throughout the city of Philadelphia to gain a better understanding of snitching, people's attitudes towards the police, and community involvement. From these focus groups, the students concluded that: a) there is not one common definition of snitching, and b) both attitudinal and situational factors influence whether (and to what extent) a person would provide evidence to the police. The students developed hypotheses regarding the nature of the snitching construct, possible antecedents and correlates of snitching attitudes, and situational factors (i.e., characteristics of the victim) that might influence involvement. The students developed a survey to test their hypotheses, which they administered to nearly 1,500 Community College students. See their questionnaire at Student Survey on Snitching.  


The students are currently analyzing the data (PRELIMINARY RESULTS below), which they presented at February's Law and Society Week at the Community College of Philadelphia. In addition, the project will be expanding to include:  1) an online version of the survey geared specifically towards high school students, 2) a Snitching Project web site, which will include a summary of the survey results as well as an extensive history of snitching and links to relevant web sites and articles, and 3) a Snitching Project Lesson Plan to assist educators who want to discuss this topic in a classroom setting.


For more information about the Snitching Project, please contact Rick Frei at rfrei@ccp.edu or check out the following media links below.  


Preliminary Results from the Snitching Survey 


NOTE:  This wiki (like all wikis) is a work-in-progress.  The Snitching Project uses this web site to disseminate information to team members.  These results are preliminary and should be treated as such. 


I.  Overall Frequencies


A.  Representativeness of Sample: 

Our sample was representative of Community College with regards to sex. 


Areas of over- or- under representation include:


  • Age: Our sample was younger than the overall population at CCP. Due to oversampling of Main campus, day classes, and 000-level and 100-level classes.
  • Race:  Oversampling of whites, under sampling of Hispanics; may be related to campus.
  • Major:  While we didn’t ask major, we did ask if a respondent was currently employed or planned on a career in law/criminal justice. Oversampling of criminal justice/paralegal studies courses.
  • College does not collect information on marital status, parental status, or country of origin, but note ‘age’ as a possible influence of representativeness of marital status and parental status.


B.  Definition of Snitching:   

People differ in how they define snitching. The traditional definition of telling on someone else to reduce your sentence is the most accepted, but other behaviors also are considered snitching. The less serious situations (tattling, telling on a cheater) also received high ratings (over 50%) indicating the word has different meanings in different contexts.


  • Overall, there seems to be a relationship between snitching and initiative. The more the situation requires the person to take initiative (e.g., it takes more initiative to call the police than it does to answer questions if you are already at the scene of a crime, it takes more initiative to actively participate in setting someone up than it does to simply pick a person out of a lineup) the more likely it is to be viewed as snitching. Below is the list of situations and the percentage of students who indicated that the situation was an example of snitching.
  • Ratting on someone else to get out of a crime:  82.6
  • Reporting a classmate cheating on an exam:  73.7
  • Tattling on a brother or sister:  56.4
  • Helping the police set someone else up:  49.6
  • Picking a suspect out of a police lineup:  28.6
  • Witnessing a crime and calling the police to report it:  27.6
  • Answering questions from police if you are at the scene of the crime:  15.8


C.  Life Experience:


  • Crime:  Nearly half of all students reported being victims of crime and nearly two thirds had friends and relatives who had been the victims of crime.
  • Relationship with police:  While over 60% said that they know a police officer personally, and nearly half reported cooperating with police in the past, half of the sample also said that they did not trust police. 21% of students had been in trouble with police before. Over one-third of all students had once participated in the D.A.R.E program; an anti-drug program that is run by police officers and has been tied to more positive perceptions of police officers. Nearly half of all students said that they would be more likely to cooperate if there was someone besides the police to which they could report crimes.
  • Illegal behavior:  15% of our sample admitted to using illegal drugs within the last 30 days.
  • Snitching and music:  While over one-third of all students said that they listened to music that explicitly said that snitching was bad, only 5.5% of students said that they music that they listened to influenced their opinion of snitching.
  • Past experience with snitching:  17% of all students reported being falsely accused of a crime in the past, and 7% said that they had been snitched on before. Only 2% said that they had ever snitched on anyone else.
  • Legal/criminal justice occupations:  Approximately 4% of the sample is currently employed in law/criminal justice occupations, while nearly 14% planned on a future career in law/criminal justice. Over representative based on classes sampled.
  • 60% of the samples consider themselves ‘religious’ and nearly 20% were taught that snitching was bad as a child.


D.  Situational Variables:


  •  Characteristics of victim:  Overall, students were more likely to cooperate with police if the victim was a senior citizen, a child, a friend, a relative, a disabled person or the students themselves. Students were less likely to cooperate if the victim was a known drug dealer.
  •  Characteristics of perpetrator:  Students were less likely to cooperate with police if the perpetrator was a friend or a relative but more likely to cooperate if the perpetrator was a police officer or a person known to be dangerous.  Whether the perpetrator was a teenager would not make someone more or less likely to cooperate.
  •  Characteristics of crime:  The type of crime had little effect on whether students would be more likely to cooperate. Students would be less likely to cooperate if the crime was nonviolent in nature.
  •  Outcomes for cooperating:  Most of the outcomes (reward, guaranteeing a criminal gets off the street, resulting in an innocent person or the student to go free) would make students more likely to cooperate. Nearly 30% of students said they would be less likely to cooperate if it would affect their reputations in the neighborhood.


II.  Demographic Data 


Sex Differences 


A.  Definition of Snitching:

In general, men were slightly more likely to rate most of the situations as being examples of snitching as compared to women. The differences varied and ranged from 1-7%. 


B.  Life Experience:


  • Crime:  Men were more likely to be the victims of crimes (54% vs. 38% of all women sampled), as were they more likely to have a friend or a relative who was a victim of crime.
  • Relationship with police:  The difference between men and women regarding trusting police (45% of men, 47% of women) is small. However, nearly 40% of men reported being in trouble with the police in the past, as compared to just 14% of women. 
  • Illegal behavior:  20% of men admitted to using illegal drugs within the last 30 days, as compared to only 13% of women. 
  •  Past experience with snitching:  35% of all male students reported being falsely accused of a crime in the past, compared to only 10% of female respondents. 14% of men said that they had been snitched on before, as compared to only 4% of females.
  • Women were more likely to consider themselves religious (64% women, 50% men).  


  C.  Situational Variable:


  • Characteristics of the victim:  In terms of being more likely to cooperate with police, women in general were more influenced by characteristics of  the victim than men, especially if the victim is a senior citizen (15 point difference), disabled (16 point difference), or the students themselves (17 point difference).
  • Characteristics of the perpetrator:  Men and women were equally influenced by characteristics of perpetrator, EXCEPT when the perpetrator of the crime was a police officer. This is notable because it was the only situational  factor that would make men were more likely to cooperate with police than women (50% for men v. 45% for women). 
  • Characteristics of the crime:  Men and women were equally influenced by the characteristics of the crime, except if the crime involved drugs, which made women more likely to cooperate with police (42% for women v. 30% for men) and men less likely to cooperate with police (21% for men v. 16% for women).
  • Outcomes:  Women were more likely than men to cooperate with police if doing so would guarantee that a criminal was off the streets (55% for men, 67% for women).


Race Differences


Note:  Because of the sample size, we were only able to make meaningful comparisons between Black vs. non-black students and White vs. nonwhite students). 


A.  Definition of Snitching: 

In general, blacks were more likely to rate situations involving the police as being examples of snitching as compared to non-blacks. The differences ranged from 10-13%.


B.  Life Experience: 


  •  Crime:  Blacks were more likely to have a relative who was the victim of a crime. There were no differences between black and non-blacks with regards to being the victim of a crime or having a friend be the victim of a crime.
  •  Relationship with police:  39% of black students reported that they trust the police, as compared to 54% of non-black students.
  •  Illegal behavior:  20% of non-blacks admitted to using illegal drugs within the last 30 days, as compared to only 10% of blacks.
  •  Music:  More than twice as many black students (48% vs. 22% for non-blacks) reported listening to music that explicitly said that snitching is bad, although the percentage of both blacks and nonblack students who say that their musical choices influence their attitudes towards snitching was low (&% of black and 3% of non-black students).
  •  Blacks identified themselves as religious more than non-blacks (70% blacks, 49% non-blacks).
  • Characteristics of the Situation:  The biggest difference was in terms of characteristics of the perpetrator. If the perpetrator was a relative or a friend, whites were less likely to cooperate with the police than non-whites.


C.  Situational Variable:


  • Characteristics of the perpetrator:  When the perpetrator was a friend or a family member, Whites reported being less likely to cooperate with police than non-whites.   

Age Differences   


A.  Definition of Snitching: 

In general, there were small age differences (less than one year) between students who identified situations as snitching and those who did not, with younger students more likely to view a situation as snitching.  


B.  Life Experience: 


  •  Crime:  Older students were more likely to have been the victim of a crime (mean age for victims = 26.9, mean age for non-victims = 22.9) and more likely to have friends or relatives who had been victims.
  •  Relationship with police:  Older students were slightly more likely to trust police than younger students, but the age difference was less than one year.
  •  Illegal behavior:  Mean age for students who have used drugs in the last seven days = 23, for those who have NOT used drugs = 25. 
  •  Music:  Younger students were far more likely to listen to music which explicitly states that snitching is bad (mean age = 22.1 for listeners, 26.1 for non-listeners).
  •  Older students considered themselves more religious than younger students. 


C.  Situational Variable: 


  • Across all situations, younger students were less likely to cooperate with police than older students.


III.  Illegal Behavior and Snitching 


We hypothesized that students who were recently engaged in illegal behavior would be:  1) more likely to define snitching as cooperating with police in any situation and 2) less likely to cooperate with police in any situation. To assess illegal behavior, we asked students if they had used an illegal drug in the past 30 days (a direct measure of illegal behavior). We also asked students if they had drunk alcohol in the past seven days. Since we also had students' ages, we were able to identify those respondents who engaged in illegal underage drinking (an indirect measure of illegal behavior).


Students who had engaged in illegal behavior were more likely to view cooperating with police as a form of snitching (for example, 35% of illegal drug users said that "A person who is at the scene of a crime picks out the perpetrator in a "police lineup" was an example of snitching, as compared to only 27% of nondrug users). Drug users in particular had significantly different life experiences than non drug users. They were significantly more likely to have been the victims of crime (62% of drug users as compared to 39% of non drug users), more likely to have friends (92% of drug users vs. 71% of non users) and relatives (83% of drug users vs. 70% of non users) who had been the victims of crime, and more than twice as likely to have been in trouble with the police in the past (47% of drug users vs. 17% of non-users). Ironically, there was no difference in participation in the D.A.R.E. program between illegal drug users and non users (approximately 40% of users and non users participated in the program).


In terms of situational variables, there was no differences between users and non users regarding characteristics of the victim, with one notable exception: 40% of drug users said that they would be less likely to cooperate with police if the victim was a drug dealer, as compared to only 30% of non users. Not surprisingly, drug users were less likely to cooperate with the police if the crime involved drugs or was nonviolent in nature.  


IV.  Music and Snitching 


We hypothesized that students who listened to music that explicitly says that snitching is bad would be:  1) more likely to define snitching as cooperating with police in any situation and 2) less likely to cooperate with police in any situation. Not surprisingly, those who listened to music that said that snitching was bad were more likely to define snitching as any cooperation with police and less likely to be influenced by situational factors when deciding whether to cooperate with police or not.  Interestingly, while nearly 35% of all students admitted that they listened to music that said that snitching is bad, only 7% of that subsample said that the music they listen to influenced their attitudes towards snitching. This implies that, instead of music influencing attitudes towards snitching, those students who have already negative attitudes towards police and are predisposed not to snitch seek out music that confirms their attitudes.   


V.  Religiosity and Snitching  


We asked students "Do you consider yourself religious?"  672 students responded yes and 436 students responded no.  We hypothesized that students who identified themselves as being religious would be:  1) less likely to define snitching as cooperating with police in any situation and 2) more likely to cooperate with police in any situation. There were no differences between religious and nonreligious students regarding who they defined snitching. However, across all situations, religious students were more likely to cooperate with police than nonreligious students EXCEPT when:  1) there was a reward for doing so and 2) if by doing so the student would go free. Differences in cooperation may be related to life experiences. Nonreligious students were more likely to have tried drugs in the past month and drunk alcohol in the past seven days, although there was no difference between religious and nonreligious students in terms of past trouble with the police or trust of the police.  


VI.  Parental Upbringing and Snitching


We asked students "Did you parents/guardians teach you that snitching was bad?" 211 students responded yes and 888 students responded no. We hypothesized that students who were taught that snitching was bad as a child would be:  1) more likely to define snitching as cooperating with police in any situation and 2) less likely to cooperate with police in any situation. Students who were taught that snitching is bad were more likely to view cooperating with police as snitching.  However, there were no differences between the two groups with regards to life experiences or how situational factors would influence propensity to cooperate with police.   


VII.  Geographic Differences


We hypothesized that the neighborhood a person lives in may be related to attitudes towards snitching and propensity to cooperate with police, so we asked students to provide their ZIP Codes. Of the nearly 1100 students surveyed, 895 students provided us with valid ZIP Codes. Jamie Picardy took the data from these students and created maps to look for geographic patterns in the data. Here are three of the maps that Jamie has created.


The first map shows the distribution of respondents across ZIP Codes (darker colors represent more students). Overall, we had at least one respondent in every Philadelphia ZIP Code except for 19112 (Philly Naval Shipyard), 19106 (Old City), and 19118 (Chestnut Hill). The highest concentration of respondents was in the Southwest and Northeast. 


Snitching Project Team Members


Director: Rick Frei

GIS Consultant: Jamie Picardy

Information Literacy Consultant: Rosemary McAndrew


Research Teams: 


Fall 2007Jamal Allen, Charlene Blakley, Kristin Burke, Christopher Carter, Bernard Cook, Michael Dempsey, Ron Gaskin, Derek Gibson, Rebecca Goins, Stacie-Ann Green, Tamika Hagans, Jonathan Jeffers, Taryn Johnson, Taron Jordan, Renee Kastrzak, James Lever, Latoya McKelvin, Kareem Neal, Jackie O'Brien (secretary/scheduler), Peter Oeun, Kelli Plover, Louise Plummer, Lee Salinis, Sean Swanwick (Access technical consultant), and Yevette Williams.


Spring 2008James Ackley (Law and Society Week presentation coordinator), Jasmin Andrews, Nwanyidimma Chukwujiorah, Shoneen Cooper, Brittney Galzarano, Gwen Gathers, Marilyn Gonzalez, Alexis Greer, Tymmothy Holland, Yvonda Lewis, Anthony Van Luton, Arbenita Musa, Andrew Peiffer, Jay Sol, Liania Watts, and Sarah Woodruff.


Spring 2010: Byron Williams, Ephesia West, Jackie Wechsler, Maurita, Thrope, Jonell Taveras, Zaki Salahuddin, Traci Pride, Ephraim Pendleton, Cong Nguyen, Cathrine Mcfaul, Jessica Mcateer, Danielle London, Aleah Libby, Ashely Jemison, Nicole Horack, Letitia Hobgen, Nastassia Harewood, Micah Edwards, Loreen Dinklacker, Kevin Corcoran, Rick Chang, and Gabriella Barilone. 


Applied Psychology class links, Dr. Frei's testimony, and additional resources:









Topics Related to Snitching


Correlation Between Snitching and Neighborhood Relations


One set of hypotheses regarded the relationship between snitching attitudes and the amount of violence in a person's neighborhood. The violent crime rate in Philadelphia has increased in the past three years, especially in the Southwest and Northeast sections of the city. We hypothesized that attitudes towards snitching (or even how snitching is defined) may be related to where the student lives in the city. As part of the survey, we asked respondents to provide their ZIP Codes. In partnership with Community College of Philadelphia's Geographic Information Systems (GIS) program, our goal is to look for geographic relationships between attitudes towards snitching and rates of criminal behavior in various sections of the city.  For more information about GIS at Community College, you can visit the GIS web site at http://faculty.ccp.edu/faculty/jpicardy/ .       


The second map shows student attitudes towards police, based on ZIP Code. Students were asked a simple yes/no question, "Do you trust the police?" For each ZIP Code, we computed the percentage of students who responded no and Jamie created a color-coded map of the responses.  Darker colors represent higher levels of mistrust. In general, we can see higher levels of mistrust in the Southeast and North sections of Philadelphia. 


We based the third map on the question, "Would you be less likely to cooperate with police if by doing so it would damage your reputation in the neighborhood?"  Again, for each ZIP Code, we computed the percentage of students who responded yes and Jamie created a color-coded map of the responses. We can again see a geographic pattern in the responses---higher percentages of students were worried about their reputation in the neighborhood in the Southwest and North sections of Philadelphia.  


Tattling and it's Relation to Snitching


  • Definition: Tattling is a social behavior where one child seeks to get another child in trouble for an offense in which the adult does not want or need to know.
  • Some tattling facts: Tattling is most frequently performed by dominant children. Children from ages 5-10 usually display tattle tale characteristics.


Reasons for Tattling:


  • Attention seeking behavior 
  • Power issues 
  • Self-esteem issuses 
  • Emerging moral conscious 
  • Limited conflict resolution


Adult Tattling:


  • Adults also display tattling characteristics.
  • Adults are usually motivated by their own selfish needs (others' employees, job promotions, etc). 


Stop Snitchin'




Stop Snitchin' refers to a term that is used in the United States. It is a campaign used to convince informants to stop snitchin' to law enforcement. The websites below summarize the history of the "Stop Snitchin'" movement in the United States and the public response to the movement (such as Boston Mayor Thomas Menino's attempt to criminalize the sale of "Stop Snitchin'" t-shirts). The "Thank You for Not Snitching" episode of the controversial Adult Swim cartoon series The Boondocks, has become an instant classic. In this episode, Aaron McGruder turns his scathing satire on the "Stop Snitching'" phenomenon, delving into the origins of the African-American community's distrust of police and how hip-hop artists use "Stop Snitchin'" as a marketing ploy to enhance their street credibility. The Cam'ron interview is a clip on a segment of 60 Minutes about the "Stop Snitchin" campaign. Only a segment of the show was about to be found. The last two links are public reactions toward the 60 Minutes news report of the "Stop Snitchin" campaign addressing the meaning of "Snitchin."



"Stop Snitchin" Links:




Who's a Rat?


Who's a Rat? is a web site that posts the names and mug shots of government witnesses, along with court documents outlining the plea agreements made in return for more lenient sentences. Whosarat.com has identified 4,300 informants and 400 undercover agents since 2004. The site was started by a man named Sean Bucci, who was indicted in federal court on marijuana charges after an informant provided information to prosecutors. In a recent New York Times article, a Justice Department official was quoted as saying that this (and other similar sites) were set up "for the clear purpose of witness intimidation, retaliation and harassment," and pose "a grave risk of harm to cooperating witnesses and defendants."   


"Who's a Rat?" Links:



Snitching and Slavery


The goal was to show how and why snitching was so prevalent during slavery. Slaves were more inclined to snitch because they or their loved ones would be tortured, beaten, and often killed for not cooperating with the slave owners. Secondly, to show how favors, money, and even status tactics were used to entice slaves into handing valuable information over to their capturers. One such tactic was allowing the slave to keep quarters in the slave owner's home. This made the slave easy prey because they were at the master's beck and call and often gave over valuable information to stay in good favor with the slave owner. The house slaves were made to feel superior to the field slaves which caused division. This division led to animosity between the two groups and that is exactly what the slave owners wanted, community division amongst the slaves.


Snitching in Academia


Reporting a fellow student for their deeds such as cheating or harassment of bullying has long been considered another form of snitching. However, decisions of how to act upon a snitch in the classroom vary from place to place. A study carried out concerning this very matter delved into the social emphases that the students were subjected to. Russian students were asked what their views were concerning snitching and a popular slogan concerning elimination of the snitch was repeated by most of them. 

It was shown that the standards by which they have been subjected to as children have affect them in adulthood as well (mainly Communist ideals). The attitudes that they can overcome through sticking together and succeeding as a group was their idea of doing well in school- no matter what the price. If they had to cheat, they cheated as a group. If some refused to cheat however, they still did not report them. Anyone who betrayed their trust was then looked down upon.

It must also be stated that the subjective labeling of whether cheating was right or wrong and whether it should be reported came down to whether they perceived it as right or wrong in the first place. Individuals who do not have a problem with cheating often times themselves, cheat. However, others that may find cheating as bad, may quickly report an individual that they feel is gaining an unfair advantage over everyone else.


Although reporting others that cheat is an easy way to get the label of "snitch" in the schoolyard, other circumstances may also test just how far one will be willing ot keep their mouth shut or say something. The rise in school violence (Columbine, etc.) spurred school officials to have the students report any suspicious activity. While it may still be snitching, students must ask themselves whether the social stigma of "snitching" is more valuable than saving lives. If an individual was to bring a firearm to school, the children (who may be the first ones to find out) are faced with making the decision as to what is more important to them.




McCarthyism and Blacklisting 


The Hollywood blacklist—more precisely the entertainment industry blacklist, into which it expanded—was the mid-twentieth-century list of screenwriters, actors, directors, musicians, and other U.S. entertainment professionals. These individuals were denied employment in the field because of their political beliefs or associations, real or suspected. Artists were barred from work on the basis of their alleged membership in or sympathy toward the American Communist Party, involvement in liberal or simply humanitarian political causes that enforcers of the blacklist associated with communism, and/or refusal to assist federal investigations into Communist Party activities; some were blacklisted merely because their names came up at the wrong place and time. Even during the period of its strictest enforcement, the late 1940s through the late 1950s, the blacklist was rarely made explicit and verifiable, but it caused direct damage to the careers of scores of American artists, often made betrayal of friendship (not to mention principle) the price for a livelihood, and promoted ideological censorship across the entire industry.


The Hollywood Ten:


    * Alvah Bessie, screenwriter

    * Herbert Biberman, screenwriter and director

    * Lester Cole, screenwriter

    * Edward Dmytryk, director

    * Ring Lardner Jr., screenwriter

    * John Howard Lawson, screenwriter

    * Albert Maltz, screenwriter

    * Samuel Ornitz, screenwriter

    * Adrian Scott, producer and screenwriter

    * Dalton Trumbo, screenwriter 


McCarthyism is a term describing the intense anti-communist suspicion in the United States in a period that lasted roughly from the late 1940s to the late 1950s. This period is also referred to as the Second Red Scare, and coincided with increased fears about communist influence on American institutions and espionage by Soviet agents. Originally coined to criticize the actions of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, "McCarthyism" later took on a more general meaning, not necessarily referring to the conduct of Joseph McCarthy alone. 




Whistleblowing is a term that is used in the work force, it is a term that describes an employee reporting fraud or abuse inside the workplace. The website below gives an overview of whistleblowing. It contains a definition, ethical issues surrounding whistleblowing, whistleblowing cases and laws that protect whistleblowers just to name a few.


Whistleblowing Links:



Code of Silence



The "Code of Silence" usually refers to a term used to describe a person who witholds vital information, whether it is voluntarily or involuntary.


Code of Silence Links:



Snitching and ACLU 


An extensive anti-snitching website sponsored by the ACLU on the topic of government informants. The website includes videos, personal stories, resources for lawyers, and the informant policies of over a dozen cities and states. From the web site:  "Unlike witnesses, informants are motivated by self-advancement. Informants work for the government, often secretly, to gather and provide information or to testify in exchange for cash or leniency in punishment for their own crimes. Preliminary research indicates that up to 80% of all drug cases in America may be based on information provided by informants... Unfortunately, today’s informant system does just that. It lacks the oversight mechanisms and regulations necessary to ensure that informants are telling the truth. Too often, informants are pressured into lying at the expense of innocent people in order to save their own skin. A steady parade of scandals also demonstrates the sad reality that too many times law enforcement has turned a blind eye to the serious, violent crimes being committed by informants while assisting with investigations of less serious crimes, such as non-violent drug offenses. Add to all of this, the vast over-reliance on informants in policing communities of color, and you have a recipe for disaster."


Link for Snitching and ACLU:




Witness Protection Program


The Witness Protection Program is an agency that protects the lives of witnesses and their families. They are relocated & given new identities so that they can start a new life. According the the United States Marshals Service website, "The Witness Security Program was authorized by the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 and amended by the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984. Since its inception, more than 7,500 witnesses and over 9,500 family members have entered the Program and have been protected, relocated and given new identities by the Marshals Service."



Philadelphia and Snitching


This article was posted on February 11, 2007. It states that the "snitch and die" mentality is not a new trend, and gives a history of Philadelphia's criminal history dating back to the 1960's and the city's Black Mafia. The article delves into connections between the Black Mafia, Black Brothers, Inc., Temple 12 (Philadelphia's branch of the Nation of Islam), and Elijah Muhammad.



On May 16, 2008, The United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania held a public forum at the Civic Space at WHYY studios to address the causes and consequences of the growing "Code of Silence" in the city of Philadelphia. Those present  included Hon. Renee Cardwell-Hughes, Everett Gillison (Deputy Mayor for Public Safety), Mark Gilson (Assistant District Attorney), George Mosee (Deputy District Attorney, Juvenile Division), Darryl Coates (Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network), Andre Chin (Institute for the Development of African American Youth), Daniel Cariño (Youth Advocate, Congreso de Latinos Unidos), Samuel George (Stoneleigh Center Youth Fellow), Dorothy Johnson-Speight (Founder, Mothers in Charge and Forum Moderator), and James Randolph (Deputy Commissioner, DHS Juvenile Justice Division).



Robert Saleem Holbrook is currently in prison and serving a life without parole sentence, since the age of 16.  He was sentenced because of the testimony of a "snitch co-defendant" that was 10 years older than him.  In this article, Holbrook offers a frontline perspective from the other side of the issue. 



For more of Robert Saleem Holbrook's writings:


Here is an interesting article on a qualitative examination done in three Philadelphia Neighborhoods on why people choose NOT to call the police, written by Patrick Carr, Laura Napolitano, and Jessica Keating:


The Story of Chante Wright



At age 15 Chante Wright witnessed the murder of Moses Williams and the shooting of Brencis Drew. At the time, she did not report to authorities that she had witnessed the crime. She later changed her mind to help her then boyfriend who was facing 25 years in a Federal Prison due to a drug conviction. In turn, her cooperation with authorities would reduce her then boyfriend's sentence by two-thirds. She put her life on the line, agreeing to identify the triggerman Hakeem Bey in an unrelated murder case. In that murder case five potential witnesses were killed and two wounded. The police believed that her testimony was so crucial in convicting the killer, that she became the first state witness in Philadelphia to enter the federal Witness Protection Program. The U.S. Marshal's gave her a new identity and moved her to Florida. After a while, law enforcement officials discovered that she wasn't following the rules under the program because she was making phone calls back and forth to Philadelphia. They gave her a second chance, but she didn't follow through, so they released her from the program. She found out her grandmother was gravely ill, so she came to Philadelphia to see her one last time. Seven hours after arriving from Florida, Chante Wright and her friend Octavia Green, were murdered by Laquaille Bryant on 01/19/08 after attending a late night party.



Snitch Documentary


The "Snitch" documentary produced by PBS, investigates how the country's anti-drug laws with a mandatory jail sentence have created a culture of snitching.



The Boondocks' "Thank You for Not Snitching" 


The Boondocks is based on a Comic Strip written by Aaron McGruder. The Comic Strip is featured in 350 newspapers nationwide. It focuses on two inner-city boys (Huey and Riley) who are moved to the suburbs by their granddad. It focuses on their daily lives and how their lives have changed since they moved from the hood to The Boondocks.



Minority Attitudes and Experience With Police  


The examples are African-Americans; however, this phenomenon could be prevalent in any Italian, Hispanic or other minority community.  To say that African-Americans commit more crimes than any other racial group is absurd, yet African-Americans are overrepresented in our prison system.   


180 African-Americans were present at a party. Two individuals were caught smoking marijuana and arrested. Because of the close proximity to several dozen other partygoers, many were cited for marijuana use and/or possession. Many African-Americans do not trust the police departments because they have family members who have personally been denied due process or have been issued citations in dubious situations. Many of the black defendants who were cited did not respond to the citations. As a result, the presiding judge charged these defendants with “failure to appear” and a bench warrant was issued.  Suddenly, a misdemeanor charge turns into two misdemeanors. In reference to education, either formally or socially, many who chose not to appear simply didn’t understand or comprehend the seriousness of the summons and did not follow up. Now dozens of basically innocent people carry a felony charge which will always impact their ability to rent, obtain credit, or to get a job.


“Stop snitching” could be a rational response from terrorized citizens to a justice system that betrays them on a daily basis. It could also mean the development of an “us against them” mentality.



Relevant Links and Readings


A great Washington Post editorial by Ronald Moten, co-founder and COO of PeaceOholics, a Washington D.C. based non-profit organization that is committed to the youth and families of the District of Columbia. Through the various activities of PeaceOholics, youth will be transformed into drug-free and crime-free productive members of their communities. In this editorial, Moten argues that the definition of snitching has evolved in recent years to now include any cooperation with police, rather than simply ratting someone else out to reduce your penalty for committing a crime. 



Alexandra Natapoff is a law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who has been very critical of snitching and the use of police informants.  Excerpt from her article in Slate:  "The backlash against snitches embodies a growing national recognition that snitching is a dangerous public policy—producing bad information, endangering innocent people, letting dangerous criminals off the hook, compromising the integrity of police work, and inciting violence and distrust in socially vulnerable neighborhoods."    



Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) is a libertarian-leaning Republican who has been making waves recently in his attempt to win the Republican Presidential nomination. In this piece, Paul criticizes "Operation TIPS – Terrorism Information and Prevention System", a provision in the Patriot Act that encourages the use of "...thousands or even millions of Americans to act as spies for the government, reporting suspicious activity...", especially "...mailmen, delivery drivers, plumbers, gas-meter readers, and the like, as they have access to private homes and businesses in their daily work."  



Summary report of a research project conducted by the National Center for Victims of Crime. The goal of the project was to "...increase knowledge and understanding of a) the critical factors that deter youth witnesses from reporting gang crimes and testifying against perpetrators, and b) the kinds of policies and programs that can encourage victim and witness cooperation."


An article posted on USA Today gives insight on a case and different perspectives about snitching, why people wont snitch and why others will tell all. This article includes Busta Rhymes and Lil Kim's situation in connection to snitch or not to snitch and how they handled it.



The file below is the survey that was edited and distributed by the Spring 2010 class:



The Powerpoint Presentation on Snitching 2010:



True story example of snitching:


A friend of mine was arrested in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania on charges of masterminding a criminal enterprise.  He was indicted on a number of charges after he was snitched on by his co-defendents.


You can view the charges by clicking the link below:



Fall 2010 Presentation:


The Powerpoint presentation from the Fall 2010 Snitching Project Conference can be found in the files section on the right-hand side of this page. Below you can find text versions of the student presentations.


From Jane Wolf, on the codes of silence within the Catholic Church:


Certainly, no institution in history is more fraught with notorious and extensive webs of codes of silence and systematic cover-up schemes than is the Catholic Church. Shockingly, the last pope to involve civil authority with the discovered crimes of the clergy was Pope Pius V - in 1568.


In light of recent years’ media exposure and subsequent public outcry of clergy sexual abuse of many thousands of children, the Philadelphia’s District Attorney’s office investigated instances and consequences of sexual crime within the Philadelphia Archdiocese.


In 2003, a Philadelphia County grand jury found that in its callous, calculating manner, the Archdiocese’s “handling of the abuse scandal was at least as immoral as the abuse itself. Conclusive evidence established that Archdiocese officials, including Cardinal Bevilacqua and Cardinal Krol received reports of sexual abuse (specifically rape) of hundreds of children by dozens of priests, and excused or enabled this abuse largely through methods of inaction, but also through devious practices; they chose not to conduct any meaningful investigations of these reports; they never alerted parents of the dangers posed by these offenders; they left dangerous priests  in place or transferred them to other parishes. This practice is referred to in the church as "Bishops helping Bishops"; the officials deliberately buried reports to outlast statutes of limitations; they intimidated and retaliated against victims and manipulated treatment efforts to create a false impression of action.


 In many instances, the abuser priests, as well, by choosing children as targets and trafficking on their trust, were able to prevent or delay reports of their crimes until statutes of limitations were expired.


 Both the priests and the Archdiocese officials escaped criminal prosecution.



From Terrence Williams, on the use of Informants:


An informant is someone who provides information about someone else’s criminal conducts in exchange for some government conferred benefit, usually lenience for their own crimes. Informants go back to the biblical days; one of the most famous Informants was Judas Iscariot who betrays Jesus.

The informants of today are often street informants or jailhouse informants, who cut deals with the police by snitching on other criminals in return for less jail time and other benefits. The police get into murky territory when they use street informants. For example, the Brooklyn South case, where narcotics officer Sean Johnstone told a fellow officer that he had paid his street informant with cocaine seized from a crime scene. Officer Johnstone forgot that his conversation was being recorded. The investigation was an embarrassment for the New York Police Department and the Brooklyn South narcotics division.  Johnstone and four other officers were arrested for providing drugs or money to street informants, and the Brooklyn District Attorney Office had to dismiss charges or convictions in 183 cases.

Police Departments all over the country use informants. The FBI reports that they employ 15,000 informants and the DEA about 4,000 at a given time, and Lt. Rudy Tai of the San Diego Police Department, who worked as a supervisor in a narcotics unit, “said that the average narcotics officer work with between one and three informants at a given time”.  Alexandra Natapoff, Loyola Law School Professor and nationally-recognized expert on snitching in the criminal justice system, estimates that one in 12 black men in poor communities are active informants at any given time.

Unlike street informants, jailhouse informants are witnesses who testify as to statements made by fellow inmate while both are in custody. In return for their testimony, jailhouse informants gain a powerful tool in their plea negotiations, and the payoff for them may be a reduced sentence, perhaps even their freedom. The problem is that jailhouse informants have so little to lose and so much to gain that there is considerable incentive for them to lie.

In October 1988, the Los Angeles Times broke a story about Leslie Vernon White. Leslie White, a jailhouse informant shows a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff how easily he could obtain information while in jail that he could use to fabricate a story that another inmate confessed to him the crime for which he was being charge for.  White convinced the police that he had obtained this information from the other inmate. White used the last name of a murder suspect with whom White had no contact with and who was being detained in the jail waiting trail. White used a jail phone that was provided to the inmate to call lawyer, family members, and friends to obtain information about the suspect. The information that White obtained was sufficient to convince law enforcement authorities that he could have received it only from conversation with the suspect and not newspaper accounts of the suspect’s crime. Also, White was able to arrange for the suspect and him to be transported to the courthouse on the same day, so he could prove that he had been in physical contact with the suspect. White indicated that he used these techniques, obtained information and gave false testimony in twelve cases.

The next case also comes from Los Angeles and it involves a murder case. The district attorney prosecuted Thomas Thompson and David Leitch for the murder of Ginger Fleischli. In the Thompson trial, the prosecutor used two jailhouse informants to help convict Thompson and obtain a death sentence for him, using a theory that Thompson had raped Fleischil and killed her out of fear that she would report the rape to the police. At the Leitch trial the prosecutor used four other jailhouse informants who told a different story than the two jailhouse informants from the Thompson trail. The prosecutor’s theory was that Leitch had planned Fleischi’s murder as part of his scheme to get back with his ex-wife and used Thompson as an accomplice. If the prosecution had used this theory at the Thompson trial, Thompson could not have received a death sentence. In spite of the prosecutor’s unethical use of two different sets of testimony from jailhouse informants that could not be reconciled with one another, all of Thompson’s efforts to get a new trial failed. Thompson was executed on July 14, 1998.

What these two case show, is that the use of jailhouse informants to provide evidence in criminal cases is fraught with abuse to the judicial system.






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