Police made arrests in 65 per cent of their caseload in 2007
Last June, a judge in Scarborough said a family’s willingness to protect a gunman by not contacting police underlined "a growing epidemic in our community" where a "code of silence" is allowing "people to kill without fear of arrest."
Witness intimidation seemed a dominant theme in 2007, a year when the "Stop Snitchin’" phenomenon crossed the border into the consciousness of mainstream Toronto after a witness in the Jane Creba murder case claimed being a snitch was "the worst thing you can do" and his life would be in danger if forced to testify.
As 2007 came to a close, with Toronto reporting 84 slayings — compared to 69 in 2006 — there are signs of a greater willingness by witnesses to co-operate, Toronto police Chief Bill Blair said in a year-end interview. Homicide investigators made arrests in roughly 65 per cent of the caseload, down slightly from last year’s 69 per cent but an improvement from 2004 and 2005, when the clearance rate hovered around 55 per cent.
"We’re not advocating people to be snitches; we’re advocating people to be witnesses. We’re asking people to stand up for themselves and stand up for their communities," said Blair.
A growing number of voices suggest it isn’t just intimidation or the "Stop Snitchin’" movement that keeps people from talking but deep mistrust in the police and justice system, particularly among young black men, who feel disproportionately profiled, frisked and incarcerated.
"In a lot of these neighbourhoods where they’re trying to get co-operation, they’ve already done raids and ... (the) community doesn’t feel like they can trust the police to use the information properly because of the stuff they’ve already seen," says a downtown youth worker.
"A mother who witnesses a shooting, she’s not a snitch. Maybe the guy who goes to jail will call it like that for a bit, but, in reality, she’s just a concerned citizen," says a youth worker.