"Stop Snitchin'" Activist Murdered E-mail
Written by APB Staff   
There has been a code of silence observed by the criminal element as long as there have been cops and robbers. The "stop snitching" culture of the street has long been a thorn in the side of police trying to close cases and bring guilty parties to justice.

Figuring out how to change the dynamic of mistrust of law enforcement and the "us vs. them" paradigm is difficult, to be sure. More difficult might be the task of convincing witnesses to come forward after high-profile murders involving individuals like David Lewis.

According to an article in the Bay Citizen by Shoshana Walter, Lewis, a 54-year-old from East Palo Alto, was known for his work on rehab and re-entry programs for offenders.

He was shot to death while walking to his car at a San Mateo shopping center. Witnesses heard an argument and gunfire before seeing a black sedan speed away, and the San Mateo police say they believe Mr. Lewis knew his killer.

Back in 2008, as part of an effort to deal with the code of silence of the streets, Mr. Lewis appeared on a public access show on local cable. Lewis told viewers to "make the call" on the public-access show of the same name.

"It's not snitching," he said. "It's being able to be a true community member."

Mr. Lewis's appearance on the episode, which re-aired recently, was quite literally a voice from the grave as a result of his murder last summer.

There is no way of knowing if Mr. Lewis's activism in challenging the culture of crime played a direct role in his death. But the irony is striking. Despite Gov. Schwarzenegger's offer of a $50,000 reward, made at the San Mateo police chief's request, the crime remains unsolved.

Investigators believe someone has information that could help them crack the case, but whoever it is isn't interested in "snitching." Figures would seem to indicate that the no-snitching problem is worse in East Palo Alto than in other Bay Area cities.

Out of the 17 homicides the police have investigated since 2008, just two have resulted in arrests. That's a dismal clearance rate of about 12 percent.
Oakland cleared 37 percent of cases in the same period, and San Francisco 43 percent.

"The challenge for us is creating the venue for you to tell us without telling us your name," Chief Ronald L. Davis of the East Palo Alto police told Walter in an interview. "I think law enforcement cannot be naïve and pretend like there's no risk."

The risk is pretty obvious to anyone who watches the public access show appearance of Mr. Lewis from 2008.

"You don't get away with murder," he says in the episode. "I suggest that people understand there is a price to pay."


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