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September 1, 2014, 5:26 pm

$20,000 could counter ‘don’t snitch’ culture

Philadelphia has had 187 murders so far in 2012, and law enforcement officials, along with lawmakers and city residents, are concerned about the recent spike in homicides.

In January, as a further incentive for the community to tell police where the city’s most wanted fugitives are hiding, Mayor Michael Nutter announced a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of these dangerous criminals.

“We will be doubling the funding of our witness assistance program to protect witnesses from that hateful ‘don’t snitch’ mentality. Also, as of today there is a standing reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of suspects wanted for murder, wanted for any homicide in the city. To every criminal out there, I just put a $20,000 bounty on your head. We’re coming for you, we will find you, and people will give up that information,” Nutter said.

So far, although no one has been able to claim a $20,000 reward, that doesn’t mean someone isn’t going to, according to Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who said it’s a little early to gauge results yet.

“The $20,000 is for the arrest and conviction of a suspect — and right now we do have some people who are eligible, but it’s still a little early at this point,” Ramsey said. “There are several cases that are still going through the process of the justice system, and that takes some time.”

Is a $20,000 “bounty” enough of an incentive for witnesses and tipsters to override the so-called “no snitching” culture and come forward with information regarding the locations of the city’s most wanted? Some city leaders think so.

“I think $20,000 is more than sufficient, provided of course that people know the police will protect them — witness protection is always a paramount issue,” said Chad Lassiter, MSW, President of Black Men at Penn. “I think we also need to keep the information about the reward money in the minds of city residents through ads and flyers and public information — almost like a campaign. I think if people know the money is there and protection is there, they’re going to keep cooperating with police.”

Bilal Qayyum, longtime community activist and executive director of the Father’s Day Rally Committee, also raised the issue of protecting tipsters and witnesses. Qayyum said there are probably homicide cases where people know who the killer is, and know where they are, but are still afraid of retaliation — even though the suspect probably doesn’t have enough influence to have someone killed even if they’re on the other side of the city.

“The reality is that most of these cats are just thugs who have no real organization behind them — they can’t reach beyond their own neighborhoods. They might have some crazy family members or friends but that’s it. But the perception is that they can. Look at that young girl, Chante Wright who was in witness protection. They couldn’t get her until she left the program and came back to Philly,” Qayyum said. “So is $20,000 enough to really make witnesses or tipsters give up the information? I used to think so, but maybe its not.”

The following local fugitives are wanted for murder. Getting them off the streets will make communities that much safer, and could make someone’s bank account a little fatter. Anyone with information regarding their whereabouts should contact the Philadelphia Police Homicide Unit at 215-686-3334 / 3335 or dial 911.

 

Omar Wright

The night of June 24 was a busy one for Philadelphia police, who had to respond to several shootings and stabbings that weekend. Among them was George Fox, 44, who was working the bar at T-Barr’s Place, in the 2200 block of South 8th Street. Fox was stabbed multiple times during an attempted robbery. Through reviewing surveillance cameras as part of the investigation, police have identified a suspect in Fox’s killing. Authorities are searching for 31-year-old Omar Wright. According to investigators, surveillance recordings show Wright entering the bar wearing a hoodie and demanding money from Fox. He allegedly stabbed the victim, stole cash from the register and fled the scene.

 

Christopher Johnson

On Sunday, January 1, at approximately 1:25 a.m., police officers from the 15th District responded to a radio call of gunshots and a male shot on the highway. Upon arrival, officers located an unknown male suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to the neck and back. The victim was identified as Gerard Market, 48, from the 4100 block of Orchard Street. Market was rushed to Temple University Hospital, where physicians pronounced him dead at 1:55 a.m. Based on their investigation, homicide detectives issued an arrest warrant for Christopher Johnson, 30, on January 4. Johnson is from the 1300 block of 66th Avenue.

 

Anthony Baker

On the night of Thursday, February 9, at 1:29 a.m., police officers from the 39th District were called to the vicinity of Marion and Hansberry Street in response to a report of gunfire. When responding officers arrived at the location, they found 23-year old David McClenic suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to the torso. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. The investigation revealed that McClenic was involved in a physical altercation with several males and connected Anthony Baker, 26, with the fatal shooting. Baker’s last known address was on the 6300 block of Algard Street.