Cheektowaga Police Raise Concerns About "Don't Snitch" Culture

6:49 PM, Nov 6, 2013   |    comments
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CHEEKTOWAGA, NY - On Monday, audiotapes and transcripts were released of jailhouse phone conversations between Cheektowaga teachers and a former student who was convicted of manslaughter.

And one of the things that you may have noticed, was references to the "don't snitch" culture that police say makes their job much harder.

Teacher 1: I hear [name of witness] snitched on you.

Dontre Jones: Word?

Teacher 1: That's what the kids said here.

This is the dialogue that a teacher and Jones had when the teacher, according to police, revealed the identity of someone who police say was cooperating in a case separate to Jones'.

Of all the recordings Cheektowaga Police released of several high school teachers having communication with Jones - who would eventually be convicted of manslaughter - the "snitch" conversation stood out most to Chief David Zack.

"This is where the line was severely crossed, there can be no question that this teacher recklessly endangered the life of a witness, who happens to be another student at the school," said Zack, "Imagine you and your child decide the right thing to do is tell police what you know? How concerned would you be if the killer learned your child was cooperating, how would you feel knowing the killer learned of your child's cooperation from a teacher at school?"

Police say the snitching comment by the teacher re-enforces that the mentality to stay quiet and not cooperate with police is alive and well.

It's become cool - mostly with young people - to not snitch, or tell on someone as a sign of loyalty to that person. But, community leaders say there's a difference between snitching and telling the truth.

"When young men and women get killed out here and people don't come out and tell the truth and they want to do the snitching thing that hurts a lot of our families in our community and I don't believe in it," said Dwayne Ferguson, CEO of MADD DADS, "If you see something going down stand up and tell the truth."

Murray Holman, the executive director of Stop the Violence Coalition said: "where it's coming from in our community is basically when we have more gangs involved now, there used to be big gangs, now it's street by street gangs."

To protect yourself, community leaders say there are ways to come forward and remain anonymous, like through hotlines.

Legal experts say there are also ways to keep your identity unknown if cases go to court, through protective orders, which seal your identity.

Ferguson and Holman add that people can also go to Peacemakers or Stop the Violence or a similar organization locally, to talk about how best to come forward, if they see a crime.

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