Street Sources Part 3 - Tactics and Weapons -

Street Sources Part 3

Gang snitches: More on how to find 'em, flip 'em & get 'em talking



Chuck Remsberg | From the March 2006 Issue Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Part 3 of a 4-part series

This column first appeared on


Here s a golden rule about developing informants: When it comes to building rapport with potential street sources, sincerity is everything. If you can fake that, you ve got it made.

Cynical? Of course. It s the police world, after all. But a show of genuine concern for their problems can work wonders in getting people with inside information about street gangs to talk to you, according to trainer Pat McCarthy of the popular Street Crimes seminars, whose techniques for cultivating informants we ve been tracking in this four-part series.

That s true particularly in dealing with the subjects of this 3rd installment: the intimates of gangbangers, including ex-lovers, disgruntled homies and concerned family members all of whom are likely to have valuable information that can help you win the battle against illegal gang activities.

It takes work to develop a good informant, McCarthy says. The key is getting them in the right frame of mind to do what you want them to do. You ll most likely have to put on a convincing act to get them there. But if you re a good cop, it s almost guaranteed you re a good talker, a good actor.


One prized piece of intelligence you should always be alert for as you work the street is news of any bust-up within a gang or affecting an individual gang member, McCarthy advises. Romantic falling-outs are special treasures. You ll never find a prospective street source riper for the picking than a jilted wife or girlfriend.

During his decade-plus experience as a top gang cop for the Chicago Police Department, McCarthy learned that bangers, like other criminals, seem to change love interests constantly, so you should have no problem getting wind of a dumping if you ve nurtured a keen ear for street gossip.

Contact the injured party as quickly as possible, while the wounds of rejection still smart. Chitchat a bit, nothing heavy, McCarthy suggests. Then in a tone of wonderment, mention that you re really surprised by how nice she is. It just doesn t fit with how your ex described you, you can say, shaking your head.

Of course she ll then be dying to know more and you can fan the flames with a few choice quotes from her former lover to set her boiling, McCarthy says. Maybe mention that you saw her ex with his new girlfriend and they both looked so happy.

You want to get her as mad as possible so she can t wait to rat out her ex and his banger buddies.

You may find an ex-girlfriend or ex-spouse who has a restraining order or an order of protection against a gang member. The complainant will be happy to help you get him off the street because she s scared of him, McCarthy says. And she ll not only have information about him but also about his banger associates.

Overcome her fear of retaliation by assuring her of absolute confidentiality.

Some departments have directives that may prohibit street officers from working with informants. The tactics in this article can prove very effective, but check departmental regs to make sure you stay out of trouble. If your agency has such a prohibition, consider talking with an administrator about a modification to permit the use of these techniques. ed.

Rejected Gang Members

Disgruntled members of a given gang can be just as hungry to wreak revenge as a discarded love interest is.

Gang members boast about their mutual love and solidarity, McCarthy notes, but the truth is things often aren t rosy-cozy in most gangs. There are petty jealousies, infighting, simmering feuds, political plotting, pissing contests like any organization.

A homie who s been socially snubbed, passed over for promotion or dressed down in front of other members may be in just the right mood for you to flip him. I ve had guys give me secrets just to eliminate competition for advancement within a gang, McCarthy says.

With the right prospect one who deep inside feels trapped in the gang life you can connect helping you with escaping to a better life. You need to prey on his emotions and fears, McCarthy explains. He knows that doing good is really the right thing to do, and you feed that feeling. Helping you looks like his springboard out.

Urge him to think about his family and his own self interest. Something like, Wouldn t this be a great point in your life for you to make a new start? You re a bright guy. You could really do something with your life. A lot of people I see are too far gone, but you re a decent guy. You can start over.

Contrast that theme with the future of staying in the gang, keeping its secrets and inevitably getting arrested. Who s gonna hit on your girlfriend if you re locked up? Which of your buddies is gonna climb on her first? I ve seen it happen many times to guys who thought it would never happen.

Play on their relative position in the gang. You re just a small fish. You ll be pushed into the system and forgotten. Are you gonna be sitting in a cell two years from now, buried, thinking you should have jumped when I gave you the chance? The decision you make today is going to have an impact on the rest of your future. It s your choice. If you don t want to help yourself out, I ll find somebody else who does.

McCarthy emphasizes, You want to present a package to them and explain it so it sounds like self-preservation to cooperate. You have to be a salesman. If you re good, they ll listen. More people will flip than won t if they re approached in the right way.

Family Members

Parents, siblings, other concerned relatives you often can play them psychologically, too, McCarthy says. Many times they re looking for ways to straighten a kid out, and you can sell them on helping you as a means of helping him.


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Chuck RemsbergChuck Remsberg is a senior contributor for He co-founded the original Street Survival Seminar and the Street Survival Newsline, authored three of the best-selling law enforcement training textbooks, and helped produce numerous award-winning training videos. Remsberg’s nearly three decades of work earned him the prestigious O.W. Wilson Award for outstanding contributions to law enforcement, and the American Police Hall of Fame Honor Award for distinguished achievement in public service.


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