For a “snitch,” as portrayed in the movies and TV shows — sometimes even in real life, no doubt — it usually does not end well. This has reinforced the popular notion that informing the police about crime is wrong.
The reality, however, is that this wrongheaded street code is a form of aiding and abetting criminal activity that helps to destroy the peace and tranquility of neighborhoods and communities.
Finally, someone is trying to do something about it. Community leaders and clergy members in Miami-Dade County’s third largest city, Miami Gardens, have launched an effort to persuade young people that remaining silent in the face of criminal activity amounts to enabling the criminal.
Police recorded 25 murders in Miami Gardens last year, most of them involving so-called “street crimes.” Clearly, the city needs to put an end to the violence by starting a movement dedicated to changing the culture of not cooperating with law enforcement.
Success will require the participation of the entire community, particularly its leaders.
In that regard, the city is off to a good start, with clergy members, police officers and community leaders recognizing that something has to be done. At one working class congregation, police officers have been enlisted to preach to young people that the code of silence is a form of evil.
They may also want to seek the help of those whom young people consider their heroes, particularly star athletes. Too often, teen idols send the wrong messages to their followers in popular rap videos — and in their less than wholesome lifestyles. But some athletes can counter these messages with the examples of their own lives and the discipline and hard work required to gain stardom.
The “no snitching” code is a kind of grassroots movement — in the wrong direction. As Dameion Peart, grieving son of a murder victim in Miami Gardens, told The Herald this week, changing the culture won’t be easy, but it is necessary, and it’s not just the job of the police. “The community needs to step up.”
Refusing to cooperate with the police is not only a form of moral cowardice, but a self-inflicted wound for witnesses who remain silent. It leaves criminals free to commit more crimes. The next time, the silent witness may be the victim, and no one who might have seen that crime will dare speak up to point the finger of guilt.