01/22/2008

Chicago police blame 'no snitching' for unsolved murders

By Annie Sweeney
The Chicago Sun-Times
Related: Gang snitches: More on how to find 'em, flip 'em & get 'em talking

CHICAGO — Chicago Police detectives solved 36 percent of murders committed in Chicago last year -- about the same percentage cleared in 2006.

Of 443 murders committed across the city, 162 — or 36.6 percent — were cleared. In 2006, 36.2 were solved.

In addition, detectives working cases from previous years cleared 102 cases, bringing the total number of Chicago murders solved to 264, according to department statistics.

The police cleared 42 percent of murders in 2005 and 47 percent the year before.

The decline comes as the number of homicides is dropping. However, detectives say there are other pressures coming to bear.

Maria Maher, chief of detectives, said many murders here involve gangs and narcotics, a culture not known to be forthcoming with details. "A lot of people will not cooperate with the police because it is not the thing to do," she said.

While detectives say a "criminal's code of honor" has long been around, the "no snitching" culture has become more prominent in recent years, celebrated in rap songs and on T-shirts.

One law enforcement source even had a man escorted out of the Cook County Courthouse at 26th Street over the summer because his T-shirt had a picture of a tombstone along with the words "RIP snitches" and a list of random names.

"They are trying to make it cool to not to talk to the police," said Brian Sexton, supervisor of the Cook County State's Attorney Gang Prosecution Unit. "There is this general distrust of police. Now they are taking it one step further and making it not cool to cooperate."

Some suspect the biggest pressure on solving murders, however, might be a 2005 policy that requires detectives to tell witnesses that while they would like them to cooperate, they are free to leave. Maher, however, said little changed after the policy was put in place — witnesses were always allowed to leave. "The only thing we did was put it pen to paper," she said.

Copyright 2008 Chicago Sun Times

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