Snitching and self-preservation

Philadelphia is on track to have over 400 homicides this year. Gun violence is out of control. Recently, a murder happened at a crowded bar but there are no witnesses. This is a re-occurring problem. Why? Simply, intimidation and a sense of despair that you can’t really do anything about it.

Yesterday on our local public radio station, Marty Moss-Coane talked with a couple of folks about this problem. Check here for the mp3. While anti-snitching efforts abound (posters, tee-shirts, even a website dedicated to reveal those who turn state’s evidence), you might think that people would come forward to tell on murders because they want to get them off the street.

No. On the radio program the guests pointed out that (1) you don’t trust the police because blow in and blow out and are suspicious of everyone, (2) you don’t know how long it is going to take to get the person off the street as it may take up to 2 years for trial, (3) you might get shot in a random drive-by, but if you become a witness, your chances of getting killed go way up.

I can’t imagine this is much different than the situation in Iraq. There are many non-violent folks who would like peace but their fear of reprisal is greater than their love for change. Its hard to gather large groups of fearful people to rally against those with guns because it requires a willingness to die.

As a suburbanite, I know nothing of this need to protect myself. So, I find it hard to know what to suggest to stop the violence or to give counsel to the average joe on the street.


Filed under Anxiety, Cultural Anthropology, News and politics, Uncategorized

5 responses to “Snitching and self-preservation

  1. I can certify that testifying is a scary thing. I testified as a witness to an assault with a deadly weapon case involving a gang member. For weeks I was afraid that they would try to keep me from testifying or punish me somehow. Officials need to do everything possible to protect witnesses and to promote a sense of moral obligation to testify.

  2. MD

    A student of mine, in the Conflict Analysis and Resolution program at Nova Southeastern U. ( works on this topic in Philly. You can contact him at

  3. Thanks for the info.

  4. PSmith


    Pastor Larry Anderson is one of the speakers at the 2007 Gun Drive & City Fellowship Event: What Do You Do, After You Pray? Saturday, August 25th ▪ 10am – 3pm Biblical will have a table.

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