DURHAM, N.C. -- Someone knows who fired more than 30 bullets into a Shannon Road apartment in Durham in July, while three adults and a 4-year-old girl slept inside.
Someone also has information about who shot and killed Thomas McLean Spruill at a Durham townhouse complex in June.
But in both cases, those who know aren't talking to police, and Durham's police chief blames that on a culture against "snitching."
In many urban areas, providing information to police is a violation of street ethics punished by anything from intimidation to death.
The phenomenon made national news in 2004 when a Baltimore DVD about snitching that included a cameo by NBA star Carmello Anthony was released. T-shirts with "No Snitching," "Snitches Get Stitches" and similar slogans followed. As early as 1999, when rap music popularized the "No Snitching" slogan, local prosecutors began noticing less cooperation from co-defendants.
The anti-snitching code has decreased respect for the criminal justice system and made at least one Raleigh murder trial difficult to prosecute, said Wake County Chief Assistant District Attorney Howard Cummings. "And that lack of respect and other gang affiliation is what fuels the fear of coming forward," he said.
Those who know who shot at the Shannon Road apartment but remain silent are as guilty as the shooter, Durham Police Chief Jose L. Lopez Sr. said.
"In essence, they've agreed to wait until the police finally capture the individual (after) more crimes and put them away for a longer period of time, or they go to a funeral parlor and see their loved ones for the last time," he said.
The anti-snitching code is perpetuated at home and where children spend most of their day, some say.
"We've enabled a culture in schools where in many ways children who are bullied or victimized are in a helpless situation," said Steven Asher, a Duke University professor who studies friendships, peer relations and social skills among youth. "Part of this happens because in America we put a huge emphasis on self-reliance. We really feel people should take care of themselves."
At school, telling on someone can result in physical violence or social rejection.
"If you tell and others find out, you'll see a resistance in people talking to you and hanging out with you," said Trevon Spence, 17, a senior at Durham's Jordan High School. "You start to lose your friends . . . Sometimes losing them is worse than getting jumped."
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