The latest 'gangsta' fashion craze on the streets of urban America has created quite a stir in cities such as Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York.
The hot-selling "no snitching" T-shirts carry warnings such as "don't talk to police" and "death before dishonor.”
In street slang, snitching is informing on others — being a tattletale, fink, rat, squealer or stoolie — and has always had negative connotations among mobsters and thieves, with severe punishment possible.
Police and law-abiding citizens, including crime victims and their families, are understandably upset over the shirts.
If witnesses and informants don't speak up, criminals don't get caught and more people could be robbed, hurt or killed.
"You just have to think of it in terms of the tradeoff and realize that, you know, yes, maybe somebody will get in trouble, but the other side of it is you really could be a hero and save lives," said Dan Gross of PAX (search).
His brother was shot in the head on the observation deck of the Empire State Building (search) eight years ago and is permanently disabled. Gross is encouraging youngsters to speak up, not shut up, and has made his own shirt with a toll-free hotline, 866-SPEAK-UP, in hopes of countering the anti-snitching craze.
One store manager said most buyers are young "wanna-be" thug types and the guys we spoke with on the street seemed to agree with the shirts' message, and at least one manufacturer has stopped making the shirts after receiving complaints, and some stores won't carry them anymore.
But shirt sellers and some buyers said the clothing shouldn't be taken so seriously and that it's more of a fad or fashion statement.
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