Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Yarrrrgh! Steanso is at work today, but now my stomach is feeling a little weird (I've slipped back to do some quick post-lunch blogging to round out my lunch hour, and now I just don't feel right). I went to Threadgills with DK for lunch, so maybe it was something I ate. Not sure.

Not too much to report, anyway. I really didn't do anything last night except surf the internet and watch TV. I just want to continue to give kudos to our family friend Jim Parsons for his continuing role as Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory. I really like very few sitcoms, yet I really do find Big Bang to be very funny, and I swear that I'm not just saying this because Jim is on it. Just watch the show a few times and the characters will suck you in (plus, of course, I have a soft spot for geek-related humor, which this show has in spades).

The weather is gorgeous outside, but we're all cooped up at work. Grrrr...

And apparently police and prosecutors at the DA's office believe that the effects of the "Stop Snitching" movement may have reached Austin. For a couple of years now a "Stop Snitching" movement has been gaining momentum through the use of DVDs, web sites, and tee shirts with the intent of discouraging people from cooperating with police when they witness crimes. Basketball star Anthony Carmello has appeared in DVDs supporting the Stop Snitching cause, but the movement largely seems to be born of sentiments arising in urban neighborhoods where gang activity and drug dealing is commonplace. Austin police report that the Stop Snitching movement may have contributed to the difficulty in solving at least three austin homicide cases this year, where a number of people may have witnessed the killings (or at least may have had information which might have helped to solve the homicides), but no one came forward to provide information.
I guess the whole Stop Snitching movement probably seems to make sense to urban, inner city kids who have entire groups of friends and family members who are in gangs. The Stop Snitching philosophy in those communities might be seen more as an oath of loyalty to your friends and nieghbors than as an attempt to actively obstruct a police investigation. And in the case of low level drug prosecutions or minor misdemeanors, I can sort of see the appeal of this line of thinking (it's easy to ake the "screw the police" attitude when you don't see anyone getting hurt or victimized by some crimes). In the case of homicides and major crimes (or even thefts, assaults, and other misdemeanor crimes that still involve victims), however, the failure of witnesses to cooperate with police just leads to much more dangerous, crime ridden communities in which extremely dangerous people come to feel that they can prey upon and victimize their neighbors with impunity. I don't know whether the proponents of the "stop snitching" ideology think that communities without police involvement are going to police themselves, but if that is their logic, it's clearly flawed, as evidenced by the ongoing crime that has led to rise of a "stop snitching" movement in the first place (and as evidenced by violent, unsolved crimes like the three Austin murders mentioned in the article). And even most minor crimes make certain acts illegal in the first place because they're attempting to protect a certain minimum standard of living within neighborhoods and communities.
Citizen cooperation with the police is the only way that certain crimes have any chance of getting solved, and if people want safer neighborhoods to live in, they're going to have to share information with officers and detectives. It's that simple. Other from that, you're pretty much left with resorting to vigilantism if you want to protect your neighborhood, and that's not going to get you very far when you're up against drug dealers and gang members (despite how Death Wish made things look).

3 comments:

The League said...

And a warning to the Stop Snitching movement: when Batman comes to you looking for information, he's not a cop, so snitch immediately. He knows where all the pain points are in the body, and he doesn't need to break anything to make you talk, punk.

Alec said...

I see some of your concerns, but a few points:

"And even most minor crimes make certain acts illegal in the first place because they're attempting to protect a certain minimum standard of living within neighborhoods and communities."

Very doubtful. The drug "war" has contributed to the decimation of some communities, particularly African American neighborhoods. The mandatory minimum for crack cocaine was certainly not designed to "protect" anyone.

The fact remains that these are victimless crimes, as is alcoholism. People would not be raging against the drug war if it was limited to DUIs.

"Citizen cooperation with the police is the only way that certain crimes have any chance of getting solved, and if people want safer neighborhoods to live in, they're going to have to share information with officers and detectives."

I agree. For the four years or so of my life that I've lived in high crime communities, I have cooperated with police...if we are talking about violent crime and theft. I never report a drug crime, although I have witnessed many drug transactions on the streets. Hell, I see them almost every weekend. You'll never get me to report them because I a) I have no obligation to do so and b) the entire drug war is a horror. Ditto with prostitution. The only way I'd report that is if the girl on the street appeared to be a minor. That's really why this movement is popular, and catching on. If DAs wanted to do something positive to stem the trend, they could stop charging people for victimless crimes. No? Then don't complain.

Steanso said...

The minimum mandatory sentencing for crack cocaine ended up having a disproportionate and unfair effect on minority communities, I will grant you, but the strong push to clamp down on the crack cocaine epidemic was far from frivolous or meaningless. It was an attempt to stem the tide of violent street crime that almost always accompanies the trafficking of these drugs and an attempt to stop large parts of an entire generation of inner city kids from becoming addicts who were hooked on crack. I think that the minimum mandatory sentencing laws were initially intended to stop neighborhoods from turning into open air drug markets (the crack cocaine laws were unfair because they punished crack cocaine users more harshly than powder users, which ended up punishing more poor people and minorities, who tended to use crack cocaine more than whites- who used powder). Unfortunately, lawmakers, police, and prosecutors underestimated the allure of the drug.
And the whole idea of victimless crimes is a debatable one. YOU may be perfectly content to live in a neighborhood where prostitution, drug dealing, and other crimes occur right outside your window, but that doesn't mean that everyone in your community is willing to sacrifice the quality of life in their neighborhoods in order to let drug dealers and hookers operate with impunity (not to mention the theft, burglary, and other crimes that tend to rise in areas where drug dealing is at its most prevalent). Some people have an interest in keeping their children and families away from these things. In criminal courts across the country some of the harshest sentences being handed out come from inner city juries who are tired of seeing their neighborhoods turned into battlegrounds for gangs and drug dealers. If you want to by into the "Don't Snitch" movement, then that's your perogative, but don't go crying to law enforcement, but I guess I feel like that if you take that attitude then you're pretty much forfeiting your right to complain about the quality of life in your neighborhood if it goes to sh*t.
Incidentally, I'm all for favoring treatment over incarceration, and in no way do I think locking addicts up for long prison sentences is a solution to the drug problem, but at the same time I don't think drug trafficking should go unchecked, and I don't think that cooperating with law enforcemtn is one of the only viable options that we have if we want to keep our community safe.