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Snitch: A Teen Explores Crime And Information In Her Community

Basim Blunt
Sierra Derrick

Sierra Derrick is a senior in the Media Arts Program at Ponitz Career Technology Center. She had come to class with a serious and personal story idea. She wanted to share what it felt like when her home was broken into and the thief walked off with their flat screen TV. The most appalling fact for Sierra was that she felt many in her Trotwood neighborhood knew about the burglary but no one came to police in fear of being labeled a snitch

It seems ridiculous, but to many African American youths there is a cultural taboo about being a snitch (a person who tips off police about a criminal activity.) It's a double edged sword for some, due to the high profile shootings of Michael Brown, Oscar Grant and John Crawford, relations in the black community with police are strained and cautious. But on the other hand, if you want to keep the neighborhood safe and property values stable, there's a need for a close knit community where everyone keeps watch on suspicious activity.

That's the tightrope Sierra's family had to walk after being robbed. Sierra talks about the crime and interviews her mom to learn what she remembered about the day of the home burglary. Here's an excerpt of her story:

Police don't like the term “snitch” as well. They say it's the old code of honor amongst criminals and thugs. A seasoned thug is proud to have served jail time, rather than snitch on an accomplice.  Police also don't want honest folks to be retaliated against for giving law enforcement information to help solve a crime. So the proper legal term they use is confidential informant. 

Sierra's father is a police officer, which made the robbery even more disturbing to her family. She went to speak with one of her dad's colleagues, Officer Troy Dexter, on what he thought about the word snitch. This is a portion from her interview recorded inside the police station:


The most sincere part of Sierra Derrick's story comes in her closing analysis. Her voice speaks honestly on how the theft of the family television affected the social fabric of her home life. In the end, Sierra tells me that the burglar was apprehended by police. He was a teenager also. A young male who had escaped a few weeks earlier from a juvenile detention center. 

Sierra records her feelings directed toward the kid who broke into her house. Her family eventually moved out of the house and the neighborhood. This experience will be part of her coming of age and moving on with life. Senior prom and graduation are in Sierra's horizons, and she's excited to be apart of the class of 2015.


Funding for the Dayton Youth Radio Project comes from the Virginia Kettering Foundation, the Ohio Arts Council and The Dayton Foundation.