The Snitching Project

The Snitching Project

The Snitching Project, led by Dr. Rick Frei, is an ongoing student-driven interdisciplinary research initiative aimed at developing a better understanding of the snitching phenomenon and facilitating community discussion through education. The project began in 2007 as part of an Applied Psychology course project at the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP). Students conducted focus groups throughout the city of Philadelphia to gain a better understanding of snitching, people's attitudes towards the police, and community involvement. From these focus groups, the students concluded that: a) there is not one common definition of snitching, and b) both attitudinal and situational factors influence whether (and to what extent) a person would provide evidence to the police. The students developed hypotheses regarding the nature of the snitching construct, possible antecedents and correlates of snitching attitudes, and situational factors (i.e., characteristics of the victim) that might influence involvement. The students developed a survey to test their hypotheses, which they administered to nearly 1,500 Community College students. See their questionnaire at Student Survey on Snitching.

Since 2007, the Snitching Prject has collected data from thousands of students, and presented data at both national and local conferences and workshops, In addition, the students organize their own conference every year on the topic of snitching and witness intimidation.


For more information about the Snitching Project, please contact Rick Frei at or check out the following media links below.

NOTE: This wiki (like all wikis) is a work-in-progress. The Snitching Project uses this web site to disseminate information to team members. These results are preliminary and should be treated as such.


Results from Snitching Survey 1.0:

I.Overall Frequencies

     A. Representativeness of Sample: Our sample was representative of Community College with regards to sex.

Areas of over- or- under representation include:


*College does not collect information on marital status, parental status, or country of origin, but note ‘age’ as a possible influence of representativeness of marital status and parental status.


     B. Definition of Snitching: People differ in how they define snitching. The traditional definition of telling on someone else to reduce your sentence is the most accepted, but other behaviors also are considered snitching. The less serious situations (tattling, telling on a cheater) also received high ratings (over 50%) indicating the word has different meanings in different contexts.

     Overall, there seems to be a relationship between snitching and initiative. The more the situation requires the person to take initiative (e.g., it takes more initiative to call the police than it does to answer questions if you are already at the scene of a crime, it takes more initiative to actively participate in setting someone up than it does to simply pick a person out of a lineup) the more likely it is to be viewed as snitching. Below is the list of situations and the percentage of students who indicated that the situation was an example of snitching.

     C. Life Experience:

     D. Situational Variables:

II.Demographic Data

Sex Differences

     A. Definition of Snitching:

          In general, men were slightly more likely to rate most of the situations as being examples of snitching as compared to women. The differences varied and ranged from 1-7%.

     B. Life Experience:

     C. Situational Variable:


Race Differences

Note: Because of the sample size, we were only able to make meaningful comparisons between Black vs. non-black students and White vs. nonwhite students.

     A. Definition of Snitching: In general, blacks were more likely to rate situations involving the police as being examples of snitching as compared to non-blacks. The differences ranged from 10-13%.

     B. Life Experience:

     C. Situational Variable:


Age Differences

     A. Definition of Snitching: In general, there were small age differences (less than one year) between students who identified situations as snitching and those who did not, with younger students more likely to view a situation as snitching.

     B. Life Experience:

     C. Situational Variable:

III. Illegal Behavior and Snitching

We hypothesized that students who were recently engaged in illegal behavior would be: 1) more likely to define snitching as cooperating with police in any situation and 2) less likely to cooperate with police in any situation. To assess illegal behavior, we asked students if they had used an illegal drug in the past 30 days (a direct measure of illegal behavior). We also asked students if they had drunk alcohol in the past seven days. Since we also had students' ages, we were able to identify those respondents who engaged in illegal underage drinking (an indirect measure of illegal behavior).

Students who had engaged in illegal behavior were more likely to view cooperating with police as a form of snitching (for example, 35% of illegal drug users said that "A person who is at the scene of a crime picks out the perpetrator in a "police lineup" was an example of snitching, as compared to only 27% of nondrug users). Drug users in particular had significantly different life experiences than non drug users. They were significantly more likely to have been the victims of crime (62% of drug users as compared to 39% of non drug users), more likely to have friends (92% of drug users vs. 71% of non users) and relatives (83% of drug users vs. 70% of non users) who had been the victims of crime, and more than twice as likely to have been in trouble with the police in the past (47% of drug users vs. 17% of non-users). Ironically, there was no difference in participation in the D.A.R.E. program between illegal drug users and non users (approximately 40% of users and non users participated in the program).

In terms of situational variables, there was no differences between users and non users regarding characteristics of the victim, with one notable exception: 40% of drug users said that they would be less likely to cooperate with police if the victim was a drug dealer, as compared to only 30% of non users. Not surprisingly, drug users were less likely to cooperate with the police if the crime involved drugs or was nonviolent in nature.

IV.Music and Snitching

We hypothesized that students who listened to music that explicitly says that snitching is bad would be: 1) more likely to define snitching as cooperating with police in any situation and 2) less likely to cooperate with police in any situation. Not surprisingly, those who listened to music that said that snitching was bad were more likely to define snitching as any cooperation with police and less likely to be influenced by situational factors when deciding whether to cooperate with police or not. Interestingly, while nearly 35% of all students admitted that they listened to music that said that snitching is bad, only 7% of that subsample said that the music they listen to Our influenced their attitudes towards snitching. This implies that, instead of music influencing attitudes towards snitching, those students who have already negative attitudes towards police and are predisposed not to snitch seek out music that confirms their attitudes.

V. Geographic Differences

We hypothesized that the neighborhood a person lives in may be related to attitudes towards snitching and propensity to cooperate with police, so we asked students to provide their ZIP Codes. Of the nearly 1100 students surveyed, 895 students provided us with valid ZIP Codes. Jamie Picardy took the data from these students and created maps to look for geographic patterns in the data. Here are three of the maps that Jamie has created.

The first map shows the distribution of respondents across ZIP Codes (darker colors represent more students). Overall, we had at least one respondent in every Philadelphia ZIP Code except for 19112 (Philly Naval Shipyard), 19106 (Old City), and 19118 (Chestnut Hill). The highest concentration of respondents was in the Southwest and Northeast.

IRS and Snitching

The IRS pay to snitch program relies heavily upon disgruntled employees, mostly middle management types who have not been able to progress forward and have a grudge to settle. Under a newly amended rule from the Internal Revenue Service, ordinary citizens can help the tax man cometh, or at least collect. The new Whistleblower Office is the IRS's attempt to give incentives for you to rat out the tax cheats you know. If your employer, co-worker, landlord, neighbor or father-in-law is raking in fistfuls of cash and bypassing Uncle Sam, you can anonymously report the abuse to the IRS and snag a windfall from their dishonesty. As long as the total amount of tax fraud comes out to at least $2 million (including penalties, interest, and whatever else the government ultimately collects based on your report), you can get a 15 to 30 percent cut of the total of what is successfully reported. We hypothesized using recent polls that cheating the system is 13% higher than 2008 causing more people to be at risk of getting "snitched on" by others who need more money at that particular point in time.