A New York pastor launched an "I Am a Snitch" campaign Sunday aimed at encouraging his Buffalo community members to report crimes to police despite the stigma attached to individuals who "snitch."
The campaign is a response to the Sept. 28 murder of 19-year-old Marquis Scott in Niagara Falls, New York, which police are still trying to investigate. Pastor Craig Pridgen of True Bethel Baptist Church reportedly began the campaign with hopes of creating awareness that cooperating with police investigations should not be seen negatively.
The Christian Post contacted Pastor Cary Pridgen of True Bethel Baptist Church but no response was received by press time.
"There's folks that think snitching is a bad thing and it's a bad word. We just want to combat that. If you know information, be willing to say it and not wait until it's somebody in your immediate family or somebody you're close to and then you want everyone to speak up about it ... Nobody's willing to say anything but we know there are people that know what happened," Pridgen told Buffalo News.
In addition to getting his congregation on board, Pridgen and Buffalo County Legislator Owen T. Steed, who also attended Sunday's service, is meeting with police, politicians and other pastors to discuss how they can get the broader community involved.
"It's to let people know that we are not going to let crime happen and not say anything," Steed told Niagara Gazette news. "If you keep letting it happen without saying anything, eventually it's going to come to your door."
Steed noted that they will discuss ideas to implement a door-to-door program that would involve community leaders visiting different neighborhoods each week and asking residents for input on what can be done to improve their safety.
While Pridgen wants his community on board, not everyone is fond of his idea.
"Pastor Pridgen is starting a 'be a snitch' organization but he's not addressing how to defend oneself in case people come after you because you snitched," Calvin Brooks commented on an article regarding the campaign published on WIVB news.
Pridgen says he realizes that many are afraid of witness intimidation that can stem from "snitching" so he offered his congregation his personal phone number as an alternative for them to call and leave anonymous messages if they wish to report any information.
"A snitch was a bad word for a long time … If you see it, say it. If you know it, tell it, it's not a bad thing," Pridgen told WIVB news.
Politicians in New York are already at work on the issue since witness intimidation has become a national issue in law enforcement's ability to solve crimes.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-New York) has been pushing to pass the Schumer's State Witness Protection Act since last year, which would increase the maximum penalty to 30 years in prison, up from 25 years under state law, for attempted murder or the use of force against a witness.
Pridgen noted that his campaign is only a small step in the larger scale of the issue but hopes he can get other faith community members involved. He began spreading the word Sunday by giving out T-shirts to his congregation that read "I Am a Snitch" to contrast the popular slogan "Snitches Get Stitches."
Pridgen noted the shirts will be available for purchase for community residents with all proceeds going toward Scott's funeral expenses.