The best way to protect ourselves from being victims of crime is to take preventative measures, and to report crimes that are known or witnessed. The task of reporting seems easy to most, but criminals and their associates go to great lengths to keep that from happening. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word “snitch” means “to inform, tattle” (2011). Stop Snitching campaigns have grown strength in the past couple of decades, popularized by the entertainment industry. Phrases like “Snitches End Up in Ditches” or “Snitches End Up with Stitches” indicate that reporting a crime will result in physical harm, injury, or death. With consequences like that, it’s no wonder there is a fear to cooperate with law enforcement officials.
The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) released a report in 2009 that offered several suggestions for officers in breaking the silence. Though the strategies are targeted for law enforcement personnel, they can be utilized by the general public as well. The strategies suggested were not specific to the type of crime committed, but rather overall tips on how to encourage reporting.
- Meet with neighborhood associations to initiate a counteractive campaign (COPS, 2009). A counteractive campaign on this topic would be referred to a “Start Snitching” campaign, which encourages community members to share information on criminal activity. If an association is not available, consider forming one, like Neighborhood Watch. Reporting crime individually may seem intimidating, but with an organized backing, more people may be willing to come forth.
- For those of you in the law enforcement field, increase police presence in high-crime areas (COPS, 2009). The increased visibility of officers will help the community members feel supported and guarded, thus encouraging a more cooperative relationship between law enforcement and the public. If you are not a member of law enforcement, contact your local authorities to see about getting an increased presence in your neighborhood.
- Support community members who want to report crimes but fear retaliation by providing a way to submit anonymous tips (COPS, 2009).
- Debunk the stereotype of snitching. Educate the public on the difference between reporting criminal activity and “tattling.”
For more information on crime reporting, check out more resources at Celebrate Safe Communities as we celebrate Crime Prevention Month.