JOHN L. SMITH:
In gang-infested neighborhoods, 'snitches get stitches' and justice denied
The woman had come with friends to U.S. District Court to support members of the bloody Rolling 60s Crips street gang, but she found the television cameras irresistible.
Reporters had gathered outside the courthouse to catch a glimpse of the players in the Galardi political corruption trial. The Rolling 60s members, meanwhile, were on trial for slaughtering rivals, dealing drugs and terrorizing West Las Vegas neighborhoods. The gang thugs drew almost no media attention, just a few baggy pants supporters and family members -- one of whom could not help herself.
"Hey, TV, tell them, 'Snitches get stitches,'" she said, laughing a little as she entered the courthouse.
"Snitches get stitches."
It's an often-repeated line on gang-infested streets these days. The slogan is found on T-shirts and on the Internet, where it's also the name of a Seattle punk band. You can buy a "Snitches get stitches" T-shirt on eBay, and your local store offers CDs from the California rapper Mac Dre, who loved to glorify murder and threaten snitches in his music until the night in 2004 when the 34-year-old Vallejo native born Andre Hicks became a homicide statistic after a show in Kansas City.
The glorification of murder and violence isn't limited to the black community. It's a great American marketing technique that transcends race and economic class: It's just that the poor and minority communities have the least margin for error and the most to lose.
The shooting deaths this year of two young boys, cases currently being worked by Metro homicide detectives, serve to illustrate the terrible reality. Both fatal shootings involve boys who authorities say weren't gang members but had the misfortune of hanging out late when the shooting started.
The first is the Jan. 15 shooting death of 12-year-old Gregory Adams on Gold Avenue. Adams' mother, Tenisha Hall, told me her son wasn't a banger but had sneaked out of the house to attend a block party after the annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. He was one of dozens of young people who converged on Gold Avenue to party but instead ended up running for their lives when a gang-related gunfight broke out.
Adams was shot in the head and hip and died a few days later at a hospital.
Despite the fact there were potentially more than 100 witnesses, homicide detectives who rolled up on the scene shortly after the shooting found that few were willing to be interviewed.
Despite that obstacle, detectives managed to find the suspected shooter and recently took him into custody on a reckless endangerment charge.
Shortly before midnight on March 31, gunshots rang out near Walnut and Cecile avenues. Police arrived to find 13-year-old Edgar Poe dead on the side of the road. In the past week, police arrested alleged gang members Rondell Scott, 21, and a California teenager in connection with the Poe slaying.
Both of these cases are being made despite a lack of cooperation from some potential witnesses. That's nothing new in gang-linked shootings, and there are plenty of examples of witnesses being hurt or intimidated for cooperating with authorities. In the cases of Adams and Poe, justice may yet be served, but it will come without some witnesses stepping forward.
Which brings me back to that recent snapshot at the courthouse. The anti-snitch campaign is nothing new. Minus the T-shirts and CD sales, almost identical language has been used in gang- and mob-influenced neighborhoods for more than a century.
In one respect, it can be argued that "snitches get stitches" is nothing more than a ghetto version of "What happens here, stays here."
But there's a difference between a blood oath taken by criminal conspirators and the outright attempt to ostracize and intimidate defenseless citizens who happened to witness a murder. That's what makes the "no snitches" marketing so insidious, so evil at its core. It assumes that, culturally speaking, everyone's gone gangsta and there's no difference between poor law-abiding citizens and the thugs who prey on them.
We're not talking about tattling on back-alley crack smokers. We're talking about murder, in this case the senseless shooting deaths of children.
Have our bullet-riddled neighborhoods become so jaded that seeking justice for two young black males isn't worth a phone call?
http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/ ... 87725.html