Among the most frustrating impediments regularly confronting law
enforcement officers is the unwillingness of many people to tell
what they may know of a crime or of the person who committed
Among the most frustrating impediments regularly confronting law enforcement officers is the unwillingness of many people to tell what they may know of a crime or of the person who committed it.
Americans grow up with the idea that informing on predators is something unsporting, even dishonorable. Those who have told what they know about a crime are often held in contempt by their neighbors or associates unless they were the victims of it.
The great number of television shows and motion pictures about criminals that are part of the current scene often glorify the lawbreaker or offer excuses for his conduct. The criminal as a romantic figure is even older in our popular fiction. Consider the dime-novel exploits of Jesse and Frank James, two brothers who turned to bank and train robberies following the Civil War because of supposed wrongs against them. How often have we seen Billy the Kid or the Dalton Brothers lash out against social injustice in any number of sagebrush sagas and rooted for them because they were the underdogs against the rich and powerful?
The plain truth is that they and the others robbed and killed for material gain. We overlook the fact that most of their contemporaries did not take up a life of crime in the same circumstances.
What do we owe those who steal, deal drugs, rob and even kill others for gain? The answer is absolutely nothing.
If a neighbor is wounded in a drive-by shooting, what honor is there in not notifying the police about any detail one may have witnessed? It may be understandable if the witness fears retribution but if it is to abide by an unwritten code it is a travesty of honor.
The victim’s welfare should be the proper focus of our concern.
By not reporting a violation of the law we are giving criminals another weapon to terrorize people. Most criminals do not adhere to any such code. If they are caught, they often turn in long-time colleagues to soften their own sentence.
There is another aspect of witnesses cooperating with law enforcement: If the predator is taken off the street for years it will make the community a safer place and one less likely to harbor a new generation of lawbreakers.
The person who gets away with pushing drugs to students will be emboldened to step up his enterprise unless he is stopped. The gang member who fires a shot at a member of a rival gang or at someone else who just happens to be in the wrong spot at the wrong time is not likely to curb his viciousness unless the law reaches out and grabs him. The gunman who holds up a neighborhood store and gets away with it will seek another target when that easy money runs out.
People who choose to break the law for gain, revenge or any other motive hold society in contempt. If we do not help the police in apprehending them if we are in a position to do so, we are proving ourselves worthy of it.