C.J. Sandle Jr. was murdered just three days after his 20th birthday in 2016 by someone who invaded his Millville Avenue home.
“Whoever killed C.J. knew where his bedroom was,” said his mother, Rebecca Sandle.
Not knowing who killed her son is frustrating, but even more maddening to her is the idea that someone has information but won’t share it with police.
“We just run into this mentality that no one wants to say anything. Hamilton is not a big enough city that there is not people that don’t know something,” she said. “If you have a burden of killing someone, you’ve shared it with someone. Someone definitely knows something, but how do you get them to speak?”
A “no snitching” culture — where the idea of speaking with police to help them solve crimes is discouraged and sometimes reinforced with threats — is blamed by Sandle and Hamilton police for several unsolved crimes, including recent shootings.
“If we want justice, if we want a safe and secure community, we need people to step up and say something if you saw something,” Hamilton Police Chief Craig Bucheit said.
Seven years ago, the Department of Homeland Security initiated a national campaign called “If You See Something, Say Something,” which was designed to encourage residents to report suspicious activity or information about serious crimes to law enforcement.
Rodney Coates director of the black world studies program at Miami University, said efforts to break the “no snitching” culture boil down to improving relationships between the community and the police.
He added that there must be a level of trust between people in high crime areas and the police.
“There has to be a level of trust between people who live in these areas and the police,” said Coates, who is the son of a police officer. “And that also goes both ways. People want to have a level of trust in the police when they are offering information and police want to know that they can count on the community to help solve crime.”
The issues that come from the “no snitching” culture cross all racial and socio-economic lines, he said.
“This isn’t a black, Hispanic or white problem — everybody is affected by crime,” he said. “We can’t expect the police to solve all of our social problems and there is a need to get these kids in school or to become productive because with nothing to do or no hope they will get into trouble.”
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On July 1, a new Florida law that protects murder witnesses went into effect. The law shields murder witnesses' identities from being released in public records for two years after the crime. Supporters of the bill said many witnesses fear retaliation for cooperating with police, according to the Palm Beach Post.
Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said Ohio has no such law on the books, but that law enforcement has the power to make sure that people remain safe when offering information about crimes.
“It will be up to the agency involved to determine whether or not there can be the use of police authority to protect that individual,” Gmoser said. “It is always on a case-by-case basis.”
“This no snitching mentality is out of control,” Sandle said. “Whoever is capable of (murder) is more than capable of doing it again. It is so frustrating that some people have said they have information but are worried about talking to police because they have warrants out for their arrest.”
There is a $10,000 reward being offered for information leading to the arrest for those responsible for C.J. Sandle’s death, but his mother isn’t sure if that will be enough to prompt someone to step up and say something.
MORE: Pastor hopes billboard messages help catch brother’s killer
Hamilton police are also still investigating the death of 37-year-old Calvin “CJ” Simmons Jr., who was shot and killed in his home in 2016.
His sister, local pastor Shaquila Mathews, who has announced her plans to run for city council in November, is taking the message of “see something, say something” to billboards in the city.
“I believe that the police have been doing everything they can to solve the case, but we need somebody to step forward with information,” she said. “We’ve seen other cases solved when people have stepped forward with information.”
Bucheit said anyone with information about these or other crimes should call 513-868-5811, ext 2002.