- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 1, 2005

BALTIMORE (AP) — T-shirts with the phrase “Stop Snitchin’” are making authorities cringe.

The shirts are selling in stores months after a DVD titled “Stop Snitchin’” began circulating on Baltimore streets. The video warns people they could be killed for cooperating with police.

“It’s incredible that anyone, particularly a business owner in Baltimore city, would try to make a buck off this while our police officers are on the streets every day, working to make our city safer,” said Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for Mayor Martin O’Malley, a Democrat. “We need everyone to join us in this effort and not work against us.”

Baltimore prosecutors have said that witness intimidation hampers their efforts to convict criminals. For example, about one-quarter of last year’s gun cases were dropped because direct or perceived threats created problems with testimony.

State’s Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, with help from Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, pushed for legislation during the last General Assembly session to crack down on witness intimidation, but had to settle for what she called a “toothless” law.

The popularity of the DVD followed by the T-shirts suggests something more than legislation is needed to change the pervasive street sentiment that “snitching” on suspected criminals is wrong and in some cases could draw retribution.

“It’s very disappointing,” Baltimore city police spokesman Matt Jablow told the Baltimore Sun.

Those who buy, make and sell the T-shirts say they are just fashion.

“I don’t take it to heart,” said Larry Smith, of Essex, who recently bought a “Stop Snitchin’” T-shirt from Changes, a jeans and urban-wear store in Eastpoint Mall, in the Dundalk area. “I just like the shirt. It’s just a figure of speech.”

The shirts, some of which are embellished with shotgun targets or other images, sell for between $19 to $28.

Changes officials said the shirts — one of a variety of urban T-shirts sold in the stores — have been popular. Changes Enterprises owns nine Changes stores throughout the region and ordered hundreds of the shirts. Antonio Gray, a buyer for the chain, said the stores are nearly sold out of them.

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