New Bachelor Thesis Assignments

When snitching is legitimate: Are there exceptions to the code of silence?


According to the codes of the street, snitching is considered a death sin. Snitching means talking to the law, or more specifically, the exchange of incriminating information for reward or leniency. There seem to exist a remarkable gap between the low number of persons who consider themselves a snitch and the substantial amount of information that the police receives from underground insiders. This gap might be explained by two reasons. First, people who snitch deny that have done so—plausibly because the risk for retaliation. Second, people who snitch don’t consider it snitching because they can legitimate their behavior. In other words, they may have had a good reason to rat out their comrades so it doesn’t “count” as snitching. This research project focusses on the latter. Does there exist a line between acceptable and unacceptable snitching? And if so, what circumstances shape this line? Think of the following example. Gang member A knows that gang member B has robbed a bank. The code of silence restricts A to betray B. However, what if A’s sister was killed during that robbery? What if B’s impulsive crimes put the position of the other gang members at risk? What if the crime was not robbery but possession of child porn? This project examines whether such circumstances can justify snitching and thereby overrule the code of silence. Understanding these circumstances might help the police to persuade possible informants to share information, or to protect informants from retaliation by creating an acceptable excuse (i.e., window-dressing). 

Research Questions

Does there exist a line between acceptable and unacceptable snitching?

What circumstances may justify snitching?

type of Research

Literature review to identify possible conditions that legitimate snitching. Developing a questionnaire or vignette that taps into these circumstances. Administer the study among participants (= quantitative data) to test if these circumstances indeed allow snitching to a more or less extend. 


Please contact Jan Gutteling ( when you are interested in this assignment.


2017/2018 Semester 2


Morris, E. W. (2010). “Snitches end up in ditches” and other cautionary tales. Journal of contemporary criminal justice26, 254-272.

Rosenfeld, R., Jacobs, B. A., & Wright, R. (2003). Snitching and the code of the street. British Journal of Criminology43, 291-309.