Where Did The “Stop Snitching” Phenomenon Originate?

It’s a two word phrase that’s far worse for police than any swearing – “Stop Snitching.” It’s become a de facto cultural phenomenon surrounding a community that often already has a strong suspicion of police. And it’s flown through North America like a magic carpet, spreading a blanket of silence wherever it’s touched down.

But where did this movement begin? It has its roots in the way police are perceived to treat members of minority communities and the poor, as well as threats from gangs to those who speak to authorities. It first emerged when a Boston rapper released a disc with the phrase on it in 1999, and an accompanying T-shirt promoted the single. The shirts spread but the major message didn’t until 2004.

That’s when a Baltimore rap artist named Rodney Thomas released a DVD called “Stop F****-in’ Snitchin’.” This might have disappeared, too if not for the presence of NBA star Carmelo Anthony, who made a cameo in the video, an appearance he would later refer to as a ‘joke’.

But it was no laughing matter to authorities, who suddenly discovered the message had spread and they could no longer get information from members of the public after a crime had been committed. Shirts with bullet holes drawn on them – intimating revenge for those who opened their mouth – didn’t help the information flow and the police pipelines dried up.

Toronto CrimeStoppers Det. Larry Straver understands the fear, but insists staying silent is what really endangers people’s lives. “It just protects the bad guy really. That’s all it does,” he maintains. “You’re not protecting your children. You’re not protecting your community. If you want to make your community safe, you have to speak up, and everybody has to do the same thing.”

Meanwhile, some authorities have tried to fight back. The Baltimore Police Department, where the infamous trend appears to have gotten its biggest start, released its own video called Keep Talking. You can see it here.

CrimeStoppers is a completely anonymous service that doesn’t subscribe to call display and doesn’t ask your name. How can they turn dole out a reward if they don’t know who you are? Find out here.

And what happened to Thomas, the man who shut up a million mouths? He pled guilty to first degree assault in 2006, and was sent to prison for 15 years. 

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