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Chicago's 'No-Snitch' Code Left Out Of Anti-Violence Agenda

By Mark Konkol | February 15, 2013 8:18pm
 President Barack Obama spoke at Hyde Park Academy Friday.
President Barack Obama spoke at Hyde Park Academy Friday.
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DNAinfo/Mark Konkol

HYDE PARK — President Obama knows Chicago.

He knows the South Side — and what’s at a stake if more isn’t done to keep illegal guns out of the hands of criminals who shoot to kill without much fear of being caught.

"I used to teach right around the corner. This is where Michelle and I met, where we fell in love. This is where we raised our daughters,” Obama said Friday at Hyde Park Academy, which is less than a mile from his Kenwood home. “And that’s really what I’ve come here to talk about today, raising our kids.”

And he did. He touched on a lot of topics — the need for common sense gun laws, building stronger families, rebuilding crumbling neighborhoods, attracting new businesses and improving schools.

But there was one very Chicago issue that the president didn’t bring up — the No. 1 reason Chicago police say more shootings and murders don’t get solved in our town.

That’s the “no-snitch” code of silence on the street that was the major factor in 75 percent of murders and 94 percent of non-fatal shooting investigations not resulting in criminal charges.

Witnesses and people with information about shootings often don't come forward because they are unwilling, fearful of retaliation or don't trust law enforment.

And for that shooters don’t think they’ll get caught.

Think about the two men charged with killing Hadiya Pendelton, the high school majorette murdered at a South Side park by a bullet that wasn’t meant for her.

Despite a massive police manhunt the shooter and his getaway driver didn’t hide. In fact, they got caught while on the way to a birthday party at a strip club.

Hadiya’s parents were at Obama’s speech Friday. The president pointed them out. He said they “deserve a vote” in Congress on tougher gun laws.

Really, they deserve more than that.

Chicago police caught their daughter’s alleged killers without anyone coming forward with viable information that led to the arrests. The Pendeltons deserved to have someone speak up for their daughter.

Government probably can't do much to change the no-snitch culture of the unwilling. But maybe there's something — more federal money for local witness protection and relocation, for instance — that government can do to help regular folks feel safer about sticking their necks out to help cops catch shooters. That simply hasn't been part of any political debate, yet.

Even before Obama took the stage, I asked Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle why cracking the no-snitch code wasn’t a bigger part of the political discussion.

She said that it should be — and that now is time to tackle issues related to gun violence “all at once.”

“If we want to reduce the violence in communities we are going to have to cooperate with police. And surely the no-snitch code prohibits police investigations and it makes it very difficult to solve crimes,” Obama’s former alderwoman said.

“If we’re going to solve these crimes people have to be willing to talk to police and that’s the bottom line.”

After Obama's address, I caught up with police Supt. Garry McCarthy to ask him the same question.

“No snitch is a cultural thing. It’s something we have to take on as a community. It does have to be addressed, but it’s not necessarily law enforcement thing to be addressed politically,” he said. “But it would help to get it in the mix. All help we can get with that the better it would be.”

And that’s no knock on Obama or local leaders pushing for gun control and stiffer sentences for shooters.

But the no-snitch code is worth mentioning — for our kids’ sake.

After all, that’s what the president came home to talk about Friday, raising our kids.