Is the “no-snitch” culture a cult fantasy?
After all, when the highest-ranking member of a Mexican Cartel is cooperating with Chicago prosecutors, it pretty much proves that even hardened criminals will sing if it will save their hides from a life sentence.
Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla, who has admitted his role in bringing tons of heroin and cocaine to the U.S., has agreed to provide information against Joseph “El Chapo” Guzman, deemed public enemy number one in Chicago.
Under the deal disclosed last Thursday, Zambada-Niebla now faces 10 years behind bars, a far cry from the life sentence he was guaranteed.
If feds can get a criminal like Zambada-Niebla to flip on a violent drug lord, you have to wonder why there are still so many knuckleheads brazenly shooting up the South and West sides.
These shooters and street corner drug dealers are as loosely organized as a high school clique. Yet, they continue to get away with terrorizing black communities.
Last week, the family of Michael Flournoy III had to bury the 16-year-old, another young victim fatally shot on the street. According to police, Michael allegedly got into a scuffle with a group of boys and someone pulled out a gun.
The slain teen was a football player at Simeon Career Academy. From all accounts, Michael was one of the good kids who are growing up under the threat of random gun violence.
In 2013, 415 people were killed in this city, most of them by guns. Only 126 of those murders were solved. That means the majority of killers are still walking the streets.
When violent crime occurs on the South and West sides, police often call on the community to cooperate with the investigation.
And when no one is arrested, it tends to stigmatize an entire community as being in the grips of a “no-snitch culture.”
Tio Hardiman, executive director of Violence Interrupters, Inc., and the former head of Ceasefire Illinois, called the “no-snitch” code a “myth.”
“There are a lot of proven testimonials out there where a lot of young men and women have told on their partners in crime,” Hardiman said.
“If you look at the whole mafia scene, some of the worst mafia people told on one another. This is a myth that really needs to be exposed.”
Even the Rev. Al Sharpton, a persistent critic of law enforcement, has a history of cooperating with the FBI.
Sharpton was outed last week by “The Smoking Gun” as an FBI informant during the 1980s, when the agency was investigating mob activity.
Hardiman said the people who benefit from the “no-snitch” myth are law enforcement.
“The police always says it obstructs them from solving crimes, but the truth of the matter, hundreds and thousands — especially here in Chicago — have talked because they don’t want to sit in a cell 23 hours a day. They will tell on their mothers and everybody else. You can arrest 40 guys and 35 guys will be telling before they get to the district station,” Hardiman said.
Last year, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy floated the idea of using celebrities to encourage victims of non-fatal violent crimes to break the “no-snitch” code.
A police spokesman acknowledges that an increase in the number of murders solved in 2013 (106 cases were solved from previous years) was due to “better partnerships with the communities.”
Additionally, Hardiman claims “the only people that do not ‘tell’ are the ones that are scared someone might shoot one of their family members.”
Still, taxpayers pay detectives, not informants, to solve these tragic homicides.
It’s time to get past “no-snitch” excuses and on to policing strategies that don’t negatively stereotype these beleaguered neighborhoods.