Campaign to break the code of silence

July 16, 2008 2:24:56 PM PDT
City and community leaders have launched a campaign to break a code of silence. "Cause we want to send a strong message that all this stop snitching, it's not snitching. It's saving a life!"

Todays' message to young people took place in front of a wall of graffiti -- a rat and a slogan, "Stop Snitchin'.

" Organizers say in Harlem and other neighborhoods across the city, it is a culture of silence that protects the perpetrator.

"Like vultures you suck their blood and then ask us to be quiet while you engage in this kind of activity," Rev. Al Sharpton said.

One of those crimes happened on Sunday morning, June 29th. A 15-year-old was shot and killed, but nobody's talking. His mother still waits for an arrest.

"He wasn't alone, someone saw something," Cherise Smith said.

Near today's announcement in Harlem, we asked why so many witnesses turn away when police seek information.

Part of the problem is a lot of people are afraid of retaliation, but a lot of young people just don't think it's cool to talk with police.

There are t-shirts that say stop snitching, and even a corporate logo with the line, "If you see police, warn--ah brothers."

"By communicating with police officers you're labeled as a snitch. You're going against the community stands for which is unity" resident Badruddin Shahid said.

Others just don't trust police.

"They got a bad reputation of not being sensitive, not showing courtesy, professionalism and respect," Saif Shaid said.

Ttoday, though, a fresh start urging young people to turn their back on a secretive culture that ridicules those who do talk as a rat, a snitch.

"So we're here today with paint and rollers that is gonna blow that rat right off the side of the building," Council Speaker Chris Quinn said.

Within a few minutes that painting of a rat was gone. It will take a lot longer to convince the reluctant that if they do see something, say something.