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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Stop Snitchin'

Aired April 27, 2007 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight the code of silence that allows criminals to get away with murder. It is a simple message, stop snitchin'.
Fueled by a distrust of the police, rappers trying to sell records and big-money companies promoting them, the stop snitchin' message tells people don't cooperate with the police no matter what.

And that has led to a crisis in many inner city communities where violent crimes like assault and rape and murder are going unsolved.

For rap stars like Cam'ron saying stop snitchin' helps sell records. It's good for business because it helps him and others maintain street cred.

I stat down with him for a "60 Minutes" interview. Take a look.


COOPER: If there is a serial killer living next door to you, though, and you know that person is, you know, killing people, would you be a snitch if you called police and told them?

CAMERON "CAM'RON" GILES, RAP ARTIST: If I knew the serial killer was living next door to me?


CAM'RON: No, I wouldn't -- I wouldn't call and tell anybody on him, but I would probably move. But I'm not going to call and be like, you know, the serial killer is in 4-E.


COOPER: A few days after that interview aired, Cam'ron clarified his position. In a statement, he said after he was shot multiple times, he didn't cooperate with police because he feared it would make him a bigger target of criminal violence. He called it the dark reality of so many neighborhoods like his. But he also added this apology: "Please understand that I was expressing my own personal frustration at my own personal circumstances. I in no way was intending to be malicious or harmful. I apologize deeply for this error in judgment."

Over the next hour, we're going to deal with the stop snitchin' issue, the crisis really.

We'll talk to the Reverend Al Sharpton, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and Host of "America's Most Wanted" John Walsh.

But we begin with the death of Busta Rhymes's bodyguard, witnessed by 25 people at least, which has gone unsolved because of this deadly code of silence.


COOPER (voice-over): Israel Ramirez, Izzy to his friends, had a great sense of humor. He loved to laugh. And he loved his three sons.

STEPHANIE HIRES, MOTHER OF ISRAEL RAMIREZ'S CHILD: He was a beautiful dad. And he's a missed dad. A very missed dad.

COOPER: One cold winter night last year, his life ended abruptly in a hail of bullets in front of this Brooklyn recording studio.

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly says at least 25 people saw the shooting, but nobody is talking.

RAY KELLY, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: None have cooperated with the police. So, we're at a standstill in this investigation.

People say, we didn't see it. We were looking the other way. Or they will say, frankly, ask Busta Rhymes. We have to work in this industry. So, he was there. Ask him.

COOPER: Israel Ramirez was a bodyguard to rap star Busta Rhymes, and he thought he was a close friend.

Rhymes was filming a music video with other big-name rappers that night. Kelly says Rhymes was standing right next to Ramirez when he was shot.

KELLY: You would like to think that any citizen, when a close friend, a confidant, is murdered right next to them, would give us some bit of information. He has given nothing. He has not cooperated with us at all.

COOPER: And that's happening in a growing number of murder cases across the country. Witnesses are refusing to come forward.

Part of it is fear of retribution and a longstanding distrust of the police in some inner-city communities. But Kelly and others also blame a big-money message that record companies are selling hard -- stop snitchin', as in, don't talk to the cops, no matter what.

It's a message rappers preach to prove their tough ghetto roots and keep up their street cred. And the young fans are buying it up.

GEOFFREY CANADA, PRESIDENT AND CEO, HARLEM CHILDREN'S ZONE: A lot of these people, they are millionaires. They're no longer in any hood at all. They are not rapping about something they have been through. They're saying anything they need to say to make money.

COOPER: Busta Rhymes did offer these words to his former bodyguard Izzy at the end of a music video.

BUSTA RHYMES, RAPPER: We just wanted to make sure that people seen this, so they know that you ain't die in vain.

Love you, and I miss you, homey. Hope we made you proud.

COOPER: But for Ramirez's former partner and the mother of one of his children, that's not nearly enough. She's still holding out hope that Rhymes or someone will speak up to help find Izzy's killer.

HIRES: I will never lose hope. I actually think something will come about one day because someone somewhere is actually going to just clear their own conscience, because they are going to have to.

COOPER: Until then, whoever shot Israel Ramirez is free to kill again.


COOPER (on camera): Stephanie Hires is the former girlfriend of Israel Ramirez. She's also the mother of his son, Styles (ph).

I spoke to her and the Reverend Al Sharpton.


COOPER: There were some -- as many as 25 witnesses, and no one has come forward to -- to tell police what they saw, what do you think?

HIRES: I think it's a shame that so many people can actually sleep at night, and not be able to just tell what -- what happened, what took place.

I couldn't understand how the precinct could receive so many calls at one time, and no one's seen anything. No one gave any information, not even a picture, not even a written -- anything, just anything. You could have went into a magazine, cut out pieces of paper, and made up a letter and sent it out to the precinct -- not necessarily saying your name or how involved you were in the situation, just anything to help.

COOPER: You want justice for Izzy?

HIRES: Yes, I do. He deserved justice. He was doing a job. And he lost his life doing a job. And the person he was bodyguarding felt safe when he was around him. So, yes, justice needs to be served.

COOPER: Reverend Sharpton, does it surprise you that -- that no one has come forward to at least just, even anonymously, tell police what they saw?

REV. AL SHARPTON, FOUNDER, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: It alarms me. I think that when we create a climate where people, in some code of nonsense, say that we are protecting murderers and thuggery and drug dealers, what was the fear of those in the past, before our time, and even when I was younger, that they didn't want to be misused by law enforcement, now that kind of fear is being manipulated and played on by those that have put our community under siege.

And I think that this is an incredible situation that must be fought and must be exposed. And this exploitation must stop.

COOPER: I got a lot of e-mails from people saying, look, you don't understand, in African-American communities, the historic distrust of the police.

And -- but this goes much beyond just historic and very reasonable distrust at times of the police. This is something, a message that is being marketed and manipulated.

SHARPTON: No, I think that there is genuine mistrust of the police. And I think that many people have that mistrust based on conduct.

But I think that, to submit and to succumb to saying, therefore, I'm going to become the silent protectors of those that will commit crimes against my community, is not the answer.

No one raises more questions than I do about police. The answer is to make the police departments operate fairly and even for everyone. The answer is not to tell criminals, you ain't got to worry about being brought to justice here, because the next step will be, when we fight police cases, then those that testify there are told, you shouldn't be talking.

COOPER: Well, Reverend Sharpton, what responsibility do these hip-hop artists -- do the -- and the record companies, these multi- billion dollar, multi-million dollar record companies that are behind them, what responsibility, what role should they play? Because they're the ones right now, you know, wearing the Stop Snitchin' T- shirts and calling each other snitches and telling -- you know, spreading this message?

SHARPTON: I think that when we look at these huge corporations that are benefiting from it, that are really exploiting our community, we've got to call them into accountability. Just like they stopped rap records that they felt were anti-police, now, we've got records where they're really making our communities victims.

Two of the icons in that world are Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls. We haven't even resolved their murders. That cheapens the lives of all in our community, when people can just be murdered and people walk away like they didn't even kill a human being.

COOPER: Stephanie, for you, this isn't, you know, some political argument. This isn't some thing out there. This is very real. Your former partner, the father of your, you know, beautiful son, was shot to death, by all accounts, by police accounts, in front of Busta Rhymes, in front of some maybe as many as 25 other people.

What would you say to a Busta Rhymes who hasn't been willing to even tell police what he saw?

HIRES: I would like to know what can he tell my son when he wants to know what happened to his dad. I would like to know him as a dad what could -- what could someone tell your children if it happened to you? How can they feel? They have no one to call, no one to say daddy to, no one to run to, speak to, just to get a hug, just to say I love you.

COOPER: I hope someone comes forward and talks about what they see. I hope Busta Rhymes comes forward and at least tells police what he saw.

HIRES: I mean, you know, I sleep well at night. And I wake up with a smile. So it's OK.

COOPER: Stephanie, thanks.

HIRES: Thank you.

COOPER: Reverend Sharpton, appreciate you for being on the program. Thank you.

SHARPTON: Thank you.


COOPER: Straight ahead, the big money being made by the hip-hop industry and the message it preaches. See a crime, even a killing, and say nothing. In a phrase, a deadly phrase, stop snitchin'.


COOPER (voice-over): He says the message is killing our kids. He says don't blame the messenger. Russell Simmons, Geoffrey Canada. Two passionate voices, one vital issue. Your decision.



COOPER: We're taking a look at a dangerous issue you may not know about, but chances are your kids do. Certainly if they listen to rappers like 50 Cent.

The message is stop snitchin'. If you see a crime, say nothing. Don't talk to police no matter what.

For rap stars desperate to make money and maintain what is so called street cred, and the record companies that support them, the stop snitchin' message helps sells records.

My next guest says enough is enough. He believes the people who profit, telling others to stop snitchin', have blood on their hands.

Geoffrey Canada is an educator, president and CEO of the Children's Zone in Harlem, and the author of "Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America." We spoke earlier.


COOPER: Let's talk about snitching. This notion that if you -- I mean, it used to be a snitch was a criminal who was ratting out another criminal to get a lesser sentence. It's now no longer that.

CANADA: Yes, it's become -- what snitching now means is that any citizen -- you don't have to be involved in it. You could be a straight person, obey the law every day, love your family, love your country, go to church. If you see a crime, and you decide you're going to report that crime, then you're a snitch.

And they are trying to turn this into a cultural norm. Now, I've had people -- this is one area I have had people come back to me and say, come on, Geoff, you know, snitching was always bad in the black community. That is not true. That is not true.

There was a certain level of order that always existed in the black community and people were always prepared to go and work with the police to keep our communities organized.

What you allow to have happen when you eliminate any connection between the community and the police force, you allow criminals to literally get away with murder. You allow people to come into communities, kill other black people -- these are black men killing other black men, and mo one says anything. And you know what happens? That it means that you killed my friend, so now I'm not going to get any justice, so I have come kill you. Then your friends have to come kill me. Then my brother -- and it just goes on and on and on. That's the pathway to destruction.

COOPER: But there are those who say, and I heard Russell Simmons say it on a show, that, you look, there's always been distrust of the police and that this idea of don't be a snitch comes from that distrust of the police. That when you have a heavy police presence, when you have what is perceived to be injustice and an unequal police response against African-Americans, you're going to have people not want to cooperate with the police.

CANADA: Here's the contradiction in this, as African-Americans, we know when we have a problem that needs to be dealt with. There are people who are perfectly prepared to go on and take on the police, challenge them to lead marches and demonstrations so that we can try and get justice for African-American people.

This issue of snitchin' has come straight from the penitentiary. This is really about sanctioning criminal behavior. This is not political. If I see you murder somebody, if I know that you have raped somebody, that I am not going to call anyone and I'm going to let you get away with that so that my community continues to become a place that's infested with crime and criminal behavior. That was never part of the original, I think, contract we had as African-Americans growing up in our community.

COOPER: And that's what it is...


CANADA: This is new.

COOPER: Are you worried talking about this?

CANADA: I have...


COOPER: Are you worried about being labeled a snitch?

CANADA: I have been cautious about what I've said. I have decided that, whatever risk is involved in this, it's worth taking. I'm not going to be silly about it. A lot of people have been very worried about the fact that I've been vocal and have said something about this -- my family, my son, my people that I work with. But am I worried? Yes, I'm worried. Am I worried to the point that I think you can be silent? No, I'm not that worried.

COOPER: So how do you change it?

CANADA: Part of the challenge is all of us in positions of leadership have to say there's a line. This is part of what the problem is, Anderson. I know a bunch of middle class African- Americans. We've worked hard, we've played by the rules, we're raising children and guess what's happening to our children? They're buying into this whole theory that they ought to be like the rappers. They want to be gangsters. So I have kids who have never been hungry, who have always have had clothes. And what do they want to do? They want to go out and get involved in selling drugs and they think that has something to do with being black.

This image is pounded into their head day after day, year after year, that this is what black people do and they don't hear any of the other kinds of things. And I think that's the music industry's fault.

COOPER: You have no doubt this is killing young black...


CANADA: I have no doubt in my mind. I have no doubt in my mind that it is setting the cultural context for murder. That if you tell a kid that look, take his life, get a gun, use the gun, kill that guy, go and shoot him. You say it over and over. There are kids who -- not every kid. They're going to say, oh, Geoff, you're saying this is the reason there is homicide in the black community. It is not the only reason, but it is certainly setting the cultural context for murder in our communities.

And that's not the role the artists have played in the African- American community. They have always taken us to the light. When you go through history of our people, you go through slavery, what kept the people moving? The music. You go through the Civil Rights struggle, everybody knew the songs -- we shall overcome. Everybody would sing it. Music helped us. James Brown, say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud. They helped black people figure out how to navigate what was a very treacherous place in America for them.

This is the first time the music is sending us into the darkness. It's actually saying, do this and go to jail. Do this and die. Do this and kill. That's the message. That's a bad message for people.

COOPER: And if there was a -- if it was discovered that there was a white guy in a Ku Klux Klan robe -- this is something you said to me before and it sort of opened my mind to a lot of things. If there was a guy in a Ku Klux Klan robe pulling the levers on this, singing this stuff, he wouldn't be allowed on the airwaves.

CANADA: He wouldn't be allowed on the airwaves. I would tell you right now, I'd have marches on Washington. I'd have millions of people coming out. You'd see a reinvigoration of the NAACP, of the Urban League. Everybody would be saying, oh, we've got to stop these white people from saying these horrible things about black people.

And yet, here we are, these are black people saying exactly the same things, without the robes, and people somehow give them a pass.

COOPER: People who defend this kind of particular music, sort of the gangster music, the gangster rap -- Russell Simmons will say look, these guys are poets. These are artists. And what they are -- they are singing and they are talking about what they have seen on the streets. And they are -- they are reflecting the kind of misogynistic and violent society that we live in.

CANADA: Young people will tell you, if you're not prepared to write the most violent, the most misogynistic, the most horrible kinds of rhymes and scenarios, you are not going to get air play.

And if I've got 100,000 young black kids around this country who aren't studying in school because they think they're going to make it as a rapper and they think the only way they can do it is rapping about the worst of the world, then that's what you're going to end up.

Every now and then one of them are going to make it. You're going to get this great genius, but it's all going to have these horrible messages. And that's what's going on.

COOPER: So someone listening at home who wants to do something -- because there are a lot of people out there who want to do something and feel like they don't know where to even start. What do you recommend?

CANADA: I recommend that first, they get some of the music and listen to it. And then don't write the artist. Don't write the label that you see because the label are not the owners. See who owns that label. All of these labels are owned by big corporations. When you begin to write the chair of those boards, then suddenly you're going to see that a lot more people are going to be interested in cleaning up this business.


COOPER: He's a remarkable advocate for children. We'll have more of my interview with Geoffrey Canada, coming up next.

Also tonight, the other reasons people don't talk to police. Historic distrust of police and fear of retribution. Ahead, they witnessed brutal crimes. Each talked with police and paid with their lives. The deadly consequences of doing what's right, when 360 continues.




Kim Jones, aka Lil Kim, was convicted and jailed in 2005 for lying to protect two close friends she witnessed at the scene of a shootout.


KIM "LIL KIM" JONES, RAPPER: My name is Kimberly "Lil' Kim" Jones, and I am innocent.


COOPER (on camera): Welcome back. We're dealing with two words tonight, stop snitchin'. In many city neighborhoods, anyone who cooperates with police is considered a snitch and gets no respect. They can get killed, in fact.

Before the break I spoke to Geoffrey Canada, one of the leading critics of this code of conduct. Here's more of that interview.


COOPER: Russell Simmons has now proposed eliminating the word bitch, ho, and the "N" word from the so-called clean versions of rap songs. What do you think about the proposal?

CANADA: I think it's a good first start, and I applaud Russell Simmons and the hip-hop action network for doing that. But it really is only a first step. And let me tell you one of the things I'm concerned about.

So you begin to bleep out certain words, but kids aren't stupid. You put a word like trigger and then you say because that's my blank, and you don't think kids put the word in there themselves? I think it may be more damaging to have the kids putting the words in than having somebody else. You start talking about really getting into the mind of a young person. And I'm not talking -- they think I'm talking about 22, 23. I'm not talking about those. I'm talking about 8-year-olds, 9-year- olds, and 10-years-old who are growing up listening to this music. And we're asking them to substitute curse words, swearwords, murdering kinds of images themselves instead of hearing it and thinking that's better.

COOPER: So how do you change it?

CANADA: Part of the challenge is -- all of us in positions of leadership have to say there's a line. You know what? People don't think there's a line. They think, look, this is what I see the deal is. If African-Americans want to go around calling themselves the "N" word, if they want to call their girls and their women bitches, if they want to call their girls and their women hoes, if they want to glorify crime and murder, and if they want to -- fine, it's up to them. What do I -- I can't say anything about African-Americans. Take the money. Call yourself whatever we want. We have to stop that.

No, I do not give anybody permission to call any African-American woman a name like that. And I don't want to be called by the "N" word. And whoever thought they had permission, I'm say you don't have permission in our community to do that anymore.

This is a life or death issue in the inner cities. African- American men are slaughtering one another at record numbers. They are being arrested at such numbers that it is shocking -- it is just shocking. When you look at the employment rates of African-American men, it is stunning in this country. This is a crisis. And they're thinking this is music. This is more than music. This is really about the fate of a people and whether or not we're leading people on a path to their own destruction.

COOPER: Is targeting the record companies also a way to go? I mean, is pointing out, you know, the lyrics, pointing out who it is who's profiting? Because I mean, they're making big money from this stuff.

CANADA: My understanding is this is the cheapest way for a record company to make money maybe in the history of music. You don't need orchestras, you don't really need any music. You don't have to spend money on developing talent and teaching them how to dance. You just need a bunch of kids to say a bunch of horrible things, and look semi-tough and mean and dangerous, and there's a good chance that you can sell 1 million records.

COOPER: Someone who is involved in the record industry said to me off the record that these decisions like what rapper is going to feud with what rapper and who is going to call who a snitch, these are actually decisions made and encouraged by record companies. They say to the artists, look, can you get in a beef with 50 Cent or can you get in a beef with, you know, the game, and it will help propel sales.

CANADA: Well, you know, one of the scary things about this business is that everybody understands that what's driving it right now is some sense of credibility that you are a criminal, a gangster and potentially a murderer. The closer you can get to those kind of things, the more people want to listen to your music. Now, that's dangerous and that's scary.

And you know, people use that as sort of the position of why we can't change the music. Well, everybody wants to listen to this music. But this is what I tell folk. This music is aimed at sort of folk who are emotionally at a level right of middle school kids. This is -- and you beat me, I beat you back up. You hit me, I hit you harder. You shoot me, I shoot you. You have a gun, I have a machine gun. I mean, it goes on and on and on.

We go through that period as men and we get to a place where we learn to deal with differences and problems in a different way. As long as you are keeping that aimed at that emotional level, then you can never have more -- enough cursing. You can never have enough violence. You can never have enough exploitation of women and denigration of women. It just gets worse and worse and worse. And that's what we've seen happening over the last 20 years.

I just remind people when this rap thing started, this was really about a bunch of African-Americans deciding we're not going to fight anymore. Instead of fighting, we're going to break dance. Instead of fighting, we're going to rhyme. Your rhyme versus mine. I bring my posse, you bring yours. We're going to have a battle. It was all metaphysical. There was no actual fighting going on.

This has turned 180 degrees where now they are saying this is the way black people deal with things versus how this form first started, when it was really helpful to our community.

COOPER: With the stop snitchin', how do you reverse it now? I mean, is it just -- you said it's people in positions standing up and saying we're not going to tolerate this. But how do you -- you know, I asked these kids who we interviewed in the "60 Minutes" piece, all of whom had witnessed crimes, none of whom had come forward and talk to police, and all of whom knew it was wrong in one sense, that they should talk to police if they've witnessed a murder. But, you know, they said, look, these are the rules.

CANADA: I think this is part of the problem. And this is where people get frustrated because you can't go into these communities and simply say to kids, stop snitchin'. If you're not going in with a way for them to get an education, if you're not going in with a way for them to get a job, if you're not going in with an answer, that's -- and part of that answer is that we have to live in a community of order and rules. If you're not going with that, then, no, they don't want to hear from you. As far as they're concerned, you're just passing through with some words of advice and you're going to be gone, and they're going to have to live with the same terror that they've been living with up until now.

If you live in a place where people carry guns routinely, where people enforce -- people enforce the law at the point of a gun, and you really believe that the police are not going to be there, nor any other adult to help you, it's hard to hear this as sort of a theoretical conversation. You shouldn't snitch, you should -- well, what are you going to do in the projects when this thing is going on? Are you going to be there to help me? If the answer is no, it's going to be hard to change that.

But I think we have to take this movement, trying to save these black kids, in terms of education, in terms of jobs, in terms of a new sense of their identity is not being connected with who the rap world says they're connected with, but connected with young, intelligent, brilliant people. And we're going to -- it's going to take time. It's not going to happen overnight. But if we start now, we can really impact this next generation. And we can actually get this current generation to listen.

No, if the -- 50 Cent comes out and says, OK guys, I've changed my stripes. I no longer want to shoot anybody. I don't -- you know, kids are going to say, OK, I give it up too? No. But if there is a responsible outpouring from the African-American artist community that says to young people, think about this. There are some choices to be made. Maybe we shouldn't have said that. Maybe that was insensitive. Maybe this was the wrong -- you're going to get these young people to listen. They're not stupid. These kids aren't stupid. They're just not hearing any other side of this debate at all. And we've got to have a debate in America.

COOPER: Geoffrey Canada, I appreciate you joining us. Thanks.

CANADA: Thanks a lot, Anderson.

COOPER: Up next, the other side of the debate. We'll talk with hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and ask him, does the rap community bear some responsibility.


COOPER (voice-over): Who'll stop stop snitchin'? The message: See something, say nothing. The result? Killers getting away with murder.

JOHN WALSH, HOST, "AMERICA'S MOST WANTED": When I see a stop snitchin' hoodie, I say to myself, what about that murder victim that's six feet underground? How the hell could you wear that t- shirt?

COOPER: Crime fighter John Walsh weighs in. Rapper Cam'ron apologizes. But will other rappers change their tune about talking to cops, when 360 continues.


COOPER: You may not have seen the video, "G's Up" by Jim Jones before this evening or heard the words on the t-shirts in it, stop snitchin', but it's a common message sung by rappers and promoted by big corporations.

Earlier, we heard Geoffrey Canada offer a powerful indictment of the message and the rappers who push it. He says this message is turning inner city communities over to criminals. It is killing kids. And criminals are literally getting away with murder.

A different view now from hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. He's also the author of "Do You! 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success." He's proposed banning three words, the "N" word, ho and bitch from rap songs played on the radio and TV. He says he would tell police if he witnessed a crime, but he still defends the rights of artists to express themselves no matter what they are saying. We spoke earlier.


RUSSELL SIMMONS, CHAIRMAN, HIP-HOP SUMMIT ACTION NETWORK: The important thing we have to recognize is that truth that comes out of their mouth is so -- it's so biting sometimes. People are offended, but the truth is we are a misogynistic society. Every time you turn on "Cops," somebody is beating their wife. We don't talk about it in great detail.

So when you hear the words out of a rapper's mouth, suddenly now you recognize misogamy or that we're racist? Or -- rappers are almost never racist -- but -- or that we're homophobic or that we're violent?

The rappers can't possibly be as violent as some of the choices we all support. We're fearful and we support the -- unconscious that we are also, about the people -- we keep talking about the 3,000 people in such a sad event. But why not talk about the 3,000 Africans who died in the last few hours, preventable deaths?

There's a lack of consciousness on the part of all the rigid, smart people. The sophisticates sit by while we bomb innocent people. They sit by while we're misogynistic. They sit by while poverty is on the rise. It's dramatic, not only in this country, but worldwide. And we're abusive of Mother Earth and everything on it. Sometimes the poets bring it to our attention.

COOPER: Right, but the last time -- I haven't heard 50 Cent speak about the environment or sing about the environment or sing about what's going on in Africa. I just looked at his lyrics today and every other word is -- are all these unspeakable words. And you can say he's...


SIMMONS: It's like a battlefield.


COOPER: Wait a minute. He lives in New Jersey. He lives in New Jersey in a gated community. That's a battlefield?


SIMMONS: 50 Cent is still a product of that environment. He's just escaped. And he has not... (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But you know what? We all are a product of where we came from, and we evolve.

SIMMONS: Alicia Keys is a product of that same environment.


COOPER: Right, and...


SIMMONS: She's a hip-hop artist and she's got a great program in Africa. Jay-Z is bringing water to people in Africa. Ludacris has the Ludacris Foundation. Chingy for Change, the Shawn Carter Foundation. P. Diddy has Daddy Palace (ph).


SIMMONS: I have five charities that work out of my office.

COOPER: OK, but...


SIMMONS: I'm making a point about hip-hop.

COOPER: Right.

SIMMONS: It's a diverse group of messages. Some of those messages make you uncomfortable.

COOPER: I just had Geoffrey Canada on, who's a very well respected African-American educator, runs the Children's Zone in Harlem. And he says look, this is basically -- these are lies.

SIMMONS: They're blaming the messenger for the message. They're trying to break the mirror for what's reflecting. They're reflecting on a truth in our community.

COOPER: You're saying -- you're saying that the artists simply are reflecting the reality of the streets?


SIMMONS: It's not always that simple. Sometimes it's complex. But they're -- they're artists. They've always been under attack.

COOPER: I've had people directly in these meetings who have told me off the record that they are encouraged to get into feuds and fights with each other. They're encouraged to call each other snitches because it builds up street cred and it sells records.

SIMMONS: I have street cred. I saw your "60 Minutes" piece.

COOPER: Right.

SIMMONS: And Cam'ron said that he wouldn't tell on a cop. He said it was a code of the street.

COOPER: He said he wouldn't tell about a serial killer living next door to him.

SIMMONS: But he was making a point. I think you'd been pushing a corner. He was making a point about being -- not telling -- talking to the police and I think that's sad, I think.

I have a program in Detroit where the police and community talk a lot, you know. There's a program that promotes dialogue that's critical. And I think that the lack of dialogue -- you know, and you look at people who live in poverty and tremendous struggle. And they feel like the police are an occupying force.

And I told Commissioner Kelly a few weeks ago he should take that program and bring it to New York, because it's very successful. And when you live in such poverty, those people seeing the police seem like they're holding the system up and the system is holding you down.

COOPER: Do you believe someone who witnesses a crime comes forward and tells police what they saw, do you believe they're a snitch?

SIMMONS: I'm a snitch instantly. If I see a crime, I'm telling instantly. So -- and I tell people every day and I tell rappers every day, if you don't tell, you're an idiot. That's my opinion, but they have a right to have their opinion.

COOPER: We're going to leave it there.

Russell Simmons, thanks.

SIMMONS: Thank you.


COOPER: Up next, John Walsh, the host of "America's Most Wanted." His show's based on the premise that people will step up and help catch criminals. He has a few choice words about the stop snitchin' campaign.

Plus, the other side of the debate. When people try to do the right thing and then pay with their lives. Who is protecting those brave enough to come forward, when 360 continues?




In a 2006 study of Massachusetts youth, 25 percent of participants said NONE of their neighbors would report a gang related crime.

64 percent of participants said people don't report crimes for fear of being beaten up or killed.


COOPER: Many young Americans are being taught through gangster rap that to talk to cops about what you've seen if you've witnessed a crime is to be a snitch. And for rappers, one of the best ways to -- or easiest ways to get street cred is to promote this message, stop snitchin'.

Part of the reluctance to talk to police comes from a wariness, a historic distrust of the police in some African-American communities. But part of it also comes from fear, fear of what happens to a witness who agrees to testify.


COOPER (voice-over): In Connecticut an 8-year-old boy, in Baltimore a 36-year-old wife and mother. Just outside Baltimore, another mother still in her 20s. Each one witnessed a crime. Each spoke up about it. All three paid with their lives.

CAROL GRIM, MOTHER OF MURDER VICTIM: She was shot once in the back and twice in the back of the head and was killed instantly.

COOPER: The message couldn't be stronger. If you tell police what you saw, you'll be called a snitch and you could die.

Law enforcement experts say witness intimidation has become a serious problem, and studies suggest it may be getting worse.

PATRICIA JESSAMY, STATES ATTORNEY FOR BALTIMORE: Witnesses either go underground because they're been threatened and intimidated and are afraid or they come to court and they recant their prior statements. This must not continue.

COOPER: At least 14 states have passed witness protection laws. A federal bill is also pending. But keeping witnesses safe also takes money and often there's not enough.

EUGENE O'DONNELL, JOHN JAY SCHOOL OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: You can imagine in a city like New York, a city of millions of people, that protecting just one person adequately, having a car in front of their house, watching where they go, surveilling them, that alone, just for one person, would be enormously expensive 24 hours, seven days a week.

COOPER: That's New York. Next door, New Jersey's witness relocation program is nearly broke. The grant that funds it expires in July. And when it does, there could be a chilling effect.

In one study of criminal courts, more than a third of witnesses said they'd been directly threatened. And without witness testimony, experts say many crimes go unsolved.

O'DONNELL: The lifeblood of the system, really, is eyewitness testimony. That's what keeps the criminal justice system operative.

COOPER: Convincing people to testify requires trust and that, say many who've studied the problem, is mostly missing in neighborhoods where crime is highest.

ALEXANDRA NAPATOFF, LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL: The core of the problem is not the lack of a witness protection program, but the relationship between communities and the police in the first instance. When people trust the police, they're going to turn to the police.

O'DONNELL: It's very important that the police have the skills -- especially investigators -- have the skills to talk to people, the trust in the community, and they know when to approach people, where to approach people.

COOPER: Still, all the trust in the world can't promise safety. It didn't save Angela Sipe (ph) or Angela Dawson (ph) and her family. All seven died when their house was fire bombed.

And trust didn't save 8-year-old Leroy Brown, Jr.

O'DONNELL: Police people can never guarantee any witness that they're going to be completely safe. The actual surprising thing is that so many people are as of this moment still willing to come forward courageously to tackle individuals who are a danger in the community.


COOPER (on camera): Witness protection is one hurdle to testifying, of course. Fear of the police is another.

CNN's Jason Carroll explains why.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's an unwritten code on many of America's urban streets. Hear it talked about in Latino neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would go to them if there was something major happening, a major emergency, but other than that, I don't trust them as far as I can throw them.

CARROLL: 3,000 miles away, the same sentiments on a basketball court in Harlem.

(on camera): Why is it that, you know, more people don't trust the police?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got some dirty cops, we've got some good cops. I don't trust the police.

CARROLL (voice-over): Police in Miami, Detroit and Chicago hear it there, too.

How did this evolve? First, many young men in inner cities say they've been victims of police harassment.

DEMENSIO MCCALL, NEW YORK CITY RESIDENT: You can't even walk the streets without being checked just because you've got a hoodie on? What type of stuff is that, man? That ain't -- I mean, that's why I don't like them.

DARRELLE PORTER, PITTSBURGH RESIDENT: These people here are undereducated and the only thing they know is the streets and they pass it on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I see a cop do crooked things -- I seen a cop plant drugs on my friend. That's why I don't like cops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, but I know four or five times before that he saw him with drugs. Then he was like, I'm tired of not busting him, boom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been abused and all that.

CARROLL: By the police?


CARROLL: Wrongly or?


CARROLL: OK. So if you did something wrong and the police came to get you, then -- I mean, that's justice, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are taught that because the other guys who are street people, they pass on the tradition.

CARROLL: Tradition or history does play a role. In the past decade or so publicized cases of police brutality, like Rodney King and Abner Louima sparked riots and reinforced ill feelings.

Author and "Newsweek" Columnist Ellis Cose says those feelings go back even further than the Civil Rights movement, when corrupt police attacked demonstrators and backed segregationists.

ELLIS COSE, author: Even to the turn of the century, there's been a lot of friction, occasional outbursts and a reasonable degree of hostility towards certain police actions translated -- and which becomes translated into a certain wariness about the police.

CARROLL: And so for many that has meant no snitching.

MCCALL: Some people, they don't even know why there's no snitching. They just know there's no snitching because that's all they know.

CARROLL (on camera): Police have done more in recent years to build confidence in the communities they serve by recruiting more minority officers and by developing outreach programs in schools, churches, and on the streets. (voice-over): Some community leaders encourage cooperation with police, put say police need to do even more.

REV. AL SHARPTON, FOUNDER NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: The answer is to make the police departments operate fairly and evenly for everyone.

CARROLL: Police say community leaders need to do more, too.

COMM. RAY KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT: Well, I'm not so certain it's a police issue. I think it's a community issue. I think you're going to have to see some leadership that develops in the community.

CHIEF JOHN TIMONEY, MIAMI POLICE DEPARTMENT: We have to do a better job on our relationships, but we also need within those communities, the African-American and Latino communities, we need good citizens, good grass root community leaders to step forward and say, hey listen, this is not OK.

CARROLL: Despite efforts from police and community leaders...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nope, I ain't going to never trust the police, never.

CARROLL: Some minds are already made up.

Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Ss the host of "America's Most Wanted," John Walsh has helped bring hundreds of fugitives to justice. He knows how important it is for people to come forward with tips and information. He's also aware of what kind of damage stop snitchin' is doing, and who he says is responsible for it.

I spoke to John earlier.


COOPER: You've been tracking the stop snitchin' movement for a long time?

JOHN WALSH, HOST, "AMERICA'S MOST WANTED": I saw it firsthand almost two years ago in Boston, where I was asked by the mayor and the police commissioner -- then police commissioner, to come up.

The homicide rate was out of control. And in these stores were these t-shirts and hoodies and all this kind of garb that said stop snitchin'. And I'd found out that somehow a defendant had been brought to trial. His defense attorney had leaked the witness list, and these thugs had murdered the main witness, sending this horrible message that if you know about a murder and you tell the police about it or cooperate, we're going to kill you. You're going to pay for it.

And the most disgusting thing is that someone would exploit this for material gain. That they would send this message that stop snitchin', don't work with the police, don't honor the time-honored concept of America to protect victims and to work with police anonymously. I'm not saying anybody has to come forward.

To make money out of it, it is -- it's absolutely disgusting. And Anderson, I know you've covered this and commend you for it. The one thing that bothers me is who speaks for the victims?

When I went into the hood that night to do the show, thousands of people came out and said, John, go get them. We're terrified. We are the ones that are being terrified by the stop snitching. We feel that we could be a murder victim. A guy is out here. He's already killed two or three people and nobody will cooperate. We're trapped here. We're trapped here. It's a disgusting trend, and anybody who defends it is absolutely wrong.

COOPER: Well, one of the things we've been focusing on in the last couple of days is, you know, this is something which is backed by major corporations, you know, who are backing these rappers, who are telling people not to snitch in neighborhoods that they don't even live in. They're living out in mansions in New Jersey...

WALSH: In Westchester.

COOPER: Right. And it's, you know, in gated communities. And it's the people, you know, who can't afford to move out of the neighborhoods who, as you said, are suffering from it.

WALSH: It isn't right. You can't justify it. It's got nothing to do with First Amendment rights. It's got everything to do with intimidating witnesses, intimidating people to cooperate and say stop this. I saw a murder. I need to be safe. I need to be able to tell somebody.

And you know, I always say, what if it was your loved one that victimized and murdered and somehow you knew there was somebody out there that knew something about it, who could get a conviction? It's not about the police. It's not about police brutality, saddling up with the police. It's about doing the right thing and it's about big corporations exploiting a horrible, horrible message.

COOPER: There's also a lot of -- and what a lot of people have said to me is look, you don't understand. There's a lot of distrust in predominantly African-American communities in the inner city toward the police. And that's where some of this reluctance to come forward comes from. And I think that's certainly true, but -- but it's being manipulated. That fear of police or distrust of police seems to be, in a very calculated way, being manipulated.

WALSH: What does that say about minority cops? There's 14,000 names on that memorial in Washington, D.C. of cops who have died in the line of duty. A lot of them are minorities. There's black cops, there's Hispanic cops. There's all kinds of minority cops. I don't buy that argument.

COOPER: Are we as a society doing enough to protect witnesses? Is it funded enough?

WALSH: Oh, I don't think so. You know, everybody says to me, how have you caught almost 940 of the world's worst fugitives in 20 years? I said because I protect the sources. People can call me anonymously. I'll take it from there. I wish people could say to people, we'll take the information and we will protect you if you have to come into court. But people are terrified. And that's supported by the stop snitching -- what is it? What is it? Is it an urban myth or what is it? I see a stop snitchin' hoodie, I say to myself, what about that murder victim that's six feet underground and that family who desperately wants you to do the right thing and how the hell could you wear that t-shirt?

COOPER: John, thanks.


COOPER: Stop snitchin' is, of course, just a slogan, a phrase, but the message is creating a crisis, one that's eating away at the rule of law and ultimately destroying communities, one unpunished criminal act at a time.

Our hope tonight is that you come away with a better understanding of what your kids are listening to, what message is being promoted by rappers and marketed by major corporations. We also hope you understand what is at risk and what needs to be done about it.

Thanks for joining us for this 360 special. I'm Anderson Cooper.