This is Part I of a two-part series. Part II will be published on May 30 at Richland Source.
Mansfield Police Chief Keith Porch recognizes that probably since the beginning of time there has been strained relationships between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.
It’s common knowledge that most everyone wants criminals arrested soon after a crime is committed. There is an expectation that the police are going to do whatever is necessary to keep our community safe.
On the other hand, while in pursuit of providing that security, there is an unwritten expectation that concerned citizens will act in the best interest of their own safety. Something has to give …
According to Porch, there have already been five homicides in Mansfield in 2023 — which matches the total number of homicides in all of 2022. Of those five only one has been solved.
“No Snitching” has been a challenge to criminal justice for generations. From the mob crime syndicates of the 1940s to the drug kingpins of the 1970s and ’80s, the street code of non-cooperation with the police in serious crimes has always been a barrier to criminal investigations.
Recently, the Stop Snitching mantra has moved beyond being a barrier in criminal investigation. It has now become a great wall of silence, so tall and wide that even murderers can hide behind it.
In Mansfield, we have had homicides that have happened on video, in the light of day and, according to Chief Porch, “while witnesses were reportedly present on the scene.”
But when investigators seek to gather details or general information about the recent crimes in our community, they are often met with closed doors and closed mouths.
“People usually don’t want to get involved for one of two reasons, either they are concerned for their own safety in some way, or what has happened does not directly impact them or their family and they don’t want to assist, which is understandable but unfortunate,” Porch said.
When I think about unsolved crimes and some of the reasons they become a trend, I often consider traditional “stick’em up” bank robberies. There was a time, prior to closed-circuit security cameras and sophisticated silent alarm systems, that bank robbery was a much more frequent occurrence than today.
With so much of today’s crime driven by the need and desire for money, why aren’t there more bank robberies?
Simple … People don’t get away with it! Between the cameras, witnesses and the money itself as the evidence, not many have been successful and as a result less people try.
However, every local court from here to the west coast has dockets full of shoplifting, DUI, Speeding and other infractions each week. Why? Because for every one that ends up before a judge, there are probably a dozen that go uncaught or unsolved. Fact is; Nothing empowers a criminal more than unsolved crime.
Murder, however, should not fit in this category.
The concept of taking a life should be a menacing thought to even the most hardened criminal. Yet homicide and even mass shootings have become a normal part of our existence and even worse, locally we have seen a rash of shootings and killings among Black youths in our community.
It all seems like such a cynical and unfair game.
There is a fight going on for the security of Black men in America. So many of whom have been victimized by a law enforcement system that is seemingly pitted against their safety.
Still, at the same time many more have become fascinated by a culture that glamorizes guns, crime and violence. There are hip-hop songs, T-shirts and long-standing community norms about “Snitching” and what happens to those who do cooperate with the law.
I guess there are places in this world where a no snitching code helps people. I’m not sure where or how that would be, but I must assume that maybe in some communities “street justice” works.
But here in Mansfield, Ohio where so many people of color are connected through blood or marriage, it’s only a matter of time before tragedy comes knocking at our personal doorstep.
Be Blessed, Not Stressed