Most of these kids had witnessed at least one violent crime but had not helped the police identify the culprits. Victoria saw someone get shot a few years ago; she says she was scared to talk to the police then, and she wouldn’t identify the shooter if the same thing happened today. Asked why, Victoria says, "Because that's the rules."
Those rules are making it much harder for the police to catch killers, according to Professor David Kennedy of The John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Kennedy works with communities and police departments all over the country. Nationwide, he says, police are able to arrest a suspect in about 60 percent of the homicide cases they investigate. That’s known as the "clearance rate."
But Kennedy says in some neighborhoods the rate is much, much lower. "I work in communities where the clearance rate for homicides has gone into single digits."
The unwillingness to come forward, Kennedy says, lies at the core of the problem.
"What does it say about what's happening in a community that if you come forward, you lose status in that community?" Cooper asks.
"In these neighborhoods, we are on the verge of, or maybe we already have lost, the rule of law," Kennedy says.
The snitchin' credo is not just a product of hip hop music, he says. Nor are people simply afraid to come forward. As Professor Kennedy sees it, and as Cam'ron portrays it in a movie, the root cause is a long-standing belief that law enforcement is the enemy.
Kennedy says that’s partly because of police tactics used to fight the war on drugs.
Asked if he trusts the police, Alex tells Cooper, "No."
Why not? "'Cause there's been numerous times I've been walking, just being a regular American citizen and getting stopped for no reason," Alex says.
"Is it possible that people aren't coming forward to talk to the police not because of what rappers are saying, but just because they don't trust the police?" Cooper asks New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
"Sure. There's always going to be an element that is not happy with what the police do," Kelly says. "But I think the difference here is the commercialization, if you will, of 'don't snitch.' The glorification of it."
Apparently hiring more African-Americans as police officers has not lessened the perception that the police are the enemy.