A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from January 03, 2013
“Snitches get stitches and end up in ditches”

"Snitches get stitches” (also “snitches wear stitches") is a street slang warning not to cooperate with the police ("snitch") or there will be violence ("stitches"). The saying has been cited in print since at least the late 1980s and is of unknown origin, although many citations appear to trace it to New York City. The ending rhyme “and end up it ditches” has been used since at least the early 2000s.


22 March 1987, Newsday (Long Island, NY), “Suit Alleges Fights, Rape at Jail” by Ron Davis, pg. 7:
“There is a pervasive risk of violence at the Correctional Institution for Men,” said John Boston, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “The Department of Correction’s own medical reports show that scarcely a day goes by at CIFM without several incidents of violence.”

“Many more incidents of violence go unreported because inmates are afraid to report them, knowing fully well the jailhouse maxim, `Snitches get stitches,’ “ Boston added.

Google Books
The Search for Structure:
A Report on American Youth Today

By Francis A. J. Ianni
New York, NY: Free Press; London: Collier Macmillan
1989
Pg. 215:
Relationships with the correctional staff, however, do not offer protection, and one maxim learned by each new inmate is “Snitches get stitches,” so few try to survive by informing to the staff.

22 March 1990, Boston (MA) Globe, “Glimpsing a Dozen Days of Crime, Death” by Stan Grossfeld, pg. 26:
Back out on the streets, Merner, who has a photographic memory, talks with some teen-agers he knows.

“Germaine, help me out. Who shot these guys?” he asks.

“Sorry, Bob,” comes the answer, “snitches get stitches.”

New York (NY) Times
Inside Rikers Island: A Bloody Struggle for Control
By TIM GOLDEN
Published: September 01, 1990
(...)
The depth of distrust between officers and inmates belies a relationship that is often far more complex. Like the inmates, the rank-and-file officers are overwhelmingly black and Hispanic, young and working-class. Often they are from the same neighborhoods. And often, despite the dictum that “snitches get stitches,” they do each other favors.

Google News Archive
20 December 1992, Allegheny Times (Western Allegheny County, PA),, “Philadelphia Schools Grapple With Violent Student Episodes,” pg. A2, col. 1:
PHILADELPHIA (AP)—The kids know the rule. On the streets or in school, “snitches get stitches.”

Google Books
13 December 1993, New York magazine, “Killer Cowboys: The violent saga of the city’s deadliest drug gang” by Michael Stone, pg. 63, col. 2:
Another was told, “Snitches get stitches,” and slashed.

Google Books
The Air Down Here:
True Tales from a South Bronx Boyhood

By Gil C. Alicea with Carmine DeSena
San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books
1995
Pg. ?:
You could get hurt, too, ‘cause, “snitches get stitches.”

5 May 1995, Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, VA), “Code Of Silence Is Invitation To Anarchy” (An Editorial From The Washington Post), pg. 6, cols. 4-5:
THE CODE OF SILENCE, unfortunately and tragically, is commonplace in many violence-drenched neighborhoods, where “snitches get stitches” is regarded as a self-evident truth.

23 March 2000, Denver (CO) Rocky Mountain News, “Teen Guilty in Homeless Man’s Death” by Sue Lindsay, pg. 5A:
“Snitches are b------ that wind up in ditches with stitches.”

22 October 2001, The News Press (Fort Myers, FL), “Schools promote good communication” by David E. Plazas, pg. H1:
“There’s the old phrase, `Snitches get stitches and get found on the side of ditches,’” said Anthony Thomas, 18, a Fort Myers High senior.

26 August 2006, Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI), pg. A4, col. 3:
“People don’t want to be cooperative. There’s the idea that ‘snitches get stitches and end up in ditches.’”
(Curtis Sliwa of the Guardian Angels—ed.)

OCLC WorldCat record
Snitches get stitches : youth, gangs, and witness intimidation in Massachusetts
Author: Julie L Whitman; Robert C Davis; Massachusetts. Executive Office of Public Safety. Programs Division.
Publisher: Washington, DC : National Center for Victims of Crime, ©2007.
Edition/Format: Book : English

Googel Books
Let’s Get Free:
A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice

By Paul Butler
New York, NY: The New Press
2009
Pg. 87:
Stop Fucking Snitching also had a merchandising tie-in: T-shirts, big and white and loose-fitting, with legends like “Don’t Be a Snitch,” “Snitches Get Stitches,” and “Niggas Just Lookin’ for a Deal.” For a few months in 2005, these white “tees” were the height of fashion for African American teenagers in Baltimore.

Google Books
Diary of a Young Girl
By Mark Anthony
Deer Park, NY: Urban Books, LLC
2010
Pg. ?:
“Snitches get stitches is what they say back in Brooklyn.”

Google Books
Title Snitches Get Stitches: An Examination of Bullying
Author Anjanette Stewart
Publisher Lambert Academic Publishing, 2012
ISBN 3659212776, 9783659212772
Length 148 pages

Urban Dictionary
snitches get stitches
An phrase used by urban communities that was intended to keep the police out of neighborhood business. The phrase reminds those seeking the help of police that their tattling will result in a severe beating. Unfortunately, This phrase has become a large reason why urban communities remain riddled with violence and poverty.
(...)
by pseudiddlyoodonym Aug 9, 2012

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Thursday, January 03, 2013 • Permalink