We are snitches. Yep, that’s right. We are just friggin’ snitches.

According to recent numbers from Crime Stoppers USA, due to the rough times many folks are experiencing trying to make ends meet, there has been a substantial increase nationwide in calls with tips for rewards. Turning in perps for cash has become a cottage industry in many parts of the country, not only in places that have had historically poor populations, but also, not surpisingly, in places where the mortgage crisis has made itself more apparent. The average annual increase, nationally, in calls of Crime Stopper tips for rewards, is about 25 percent. In Southwest Florida, especially hard-hit by subprime problems, the increase has been close to 30 percent. But get this, in good ol’ chillin’ San Antonio, recently touted as a unique paragon of unwaivering economic strength, a bastion of stability and growth, the annual increase in calls has been (insert drum roll and bugles): 44 percent. Almost twice the national average.

By these percentages, San Antonio’s leading economic indicator, our number one growth industry, allowing us to claim pride of place as being number one nationwide is, by far: Snitching. We are El Bigo Snitcho.


Apparently, when times are tough, we have no problem turning on our perpy neighbors, friends, grandchildren, boyfriends, spouses, etc., turning them in in exchange for bounty moolah. And we want the cash real pronto, willing to turn in even more folks if this helps expedite payment. By many accounts, the monies from these rewards supplement meager incomes, and are used for basic needs such as food, rent and utilities. In some instances, a decent livelihood is derived from these phone call crime tips, with some people  averaging several hundred dollars a week. So crime does in fact pay: In this case, the snitch. And crime does have a socially redeeming value: Enhanced livelihoods for our social underbellies.

And apparently discretion is not an issue anymore. Used to be snitches were very careful with their tattles for fear of being offed by the turn-ins or their relatives and friends. Payments were arranged in a hush-hush manner, no one the wiser. Now, tipsters are flagrantly walking into police stations, demanding their reward money, with no concern or regard for revenge or retaliation that may come their way as payback for their pecuniary indiscretions.

It seems that in addition to being Easy and Chillin’, we have become as well a fearless citizenry.

And a poorer one.

If, as our fearless leaders (fearlessness trickle-down or trickle up?) frequently tout, we are in the best of times, why is an economic indicator of really rough times showing San Antonio placed at the top of the chart of indigent income sources, ranking right up there with blood banks?

Now, whether we good San Antonio folks are inventive and enterprising in the manner in which we address a sustainable livelihood, or we’re just lucky enough to have been around the wrong people all our lives and are seeing an easy way to capitalize on what technically speaking could be construed as armchair bounty hunting; the fact still begs a number of questions: How do so many of us know so many perps in the first place? Are we all accomplices and abetters? If there are enough perps to create a cottage industry of such a sizable proportion, where are all the perps coming from? If police are willing to pay money for information on perps’ whereabouts why are so many of them out loose in the first place? How does the reward money appear on accounting statements? Is it an itemized deduction, an operational expense, research and development? Is Snitching recognized as a legitimate professional category by the IRS? Is there enough data for an economic impact study? Can we get federal grants and muni bonds allocated to the enterprise? AAA ratings anyone?

Maybe we should seriously consider importing perps. We could get them from out of state or out of country (with the new Homeland Security laws, the Patriot Act and whatnot, it is much easier to detain and hold Furners, and in Texas, a Furner is officially anyone without a Texas Driver’s License), let them loose in San Antonio’s Westside and Southside, and with a slick marketing campaign, entice more low-income folks to join the Call-For-Rewards bandwagon, turning the perps in for cash, thus in one fell swoop providing employment (all freelance, no payroll taxes or health benefits apply), raising income levels, and boosting property-tax bases in the neediest parts of town, which in turn will do away with unpopular school-district Robin Hood initiatives to better educate children in the barrios (now there’s a euphemism in search of an irony…).

International perp trade agreements, quotas and subsidies -which are widely used in other industries- could bolster San Antonio’s already important nationwide standing in the perp-for-cash business, elevating us to the level of international business conglomerates, with the snitch-a-perp industry (which by all accounts is severely mismanaged by our Sheriff’s Department) making us the perp-for-cash capital of the world. Take away the men wearing hats boots and badges, replace them with sweet old abuelitas on cell phones, and we’ve got a weener of a business model. The way I see it, empires have been built on shakier, shadier premises.

No matter how you slice the pie, 44 percent annual growth is a to-die-for economist’s wet dream. Not even the Chinese come close, and they own us.

This is what I call taking chisme to the next level. Making it all it can be. Don’t ask, don’t tell? Pshaw! Ask and tell till the sun goes down and comes up again. Just show me the money and I’ll turn in my honey!!!

It is what it could be and it could be huge.

Michael Mehl

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