‘Snitches get stitches’ is a term being bandied about in Manitoba as people discuss the current government restrictions designed to stop the spread of COVID-19. The person who mentioned the term to me said in certain neighbourhoods in our province, residents feel free to violate lockdown protocols because there is a ‘snitches get stitches’ ethos in the community.
I had to look the phrase up in the urban dictionary to learn it has its roots in gang culture where it means that snitches -people who report on others to the police or government agencies, will receive stitches- some kind of abuse usually of a physical nature, for betraying them. I suspect that ‘snitches get stitches’ may not actually be happening in Manitoba neighbourhoods, but it is a dramatic way to describe the prevailing attitude of the folks living in some communities. If you report neighbours to the authorities for disregarding the limits imposed by the lockdown you will damage your reputation and your actions may be subject to public criticism.
A friend on social media passed on a post about why you shouldn’t report neighbours to the police if you notice them violating government COVID-19 regulations. It reminded people that it is your neighbours and not the government who will come to your aid when you need to borrow a garden tool or a cup of sugar. They keep an eye on your property while you vacation and their children are probably classmates with yours. Is it more important to maintain a cordial relationship with your neighbours than to follow government regulations albeit ones with the intent of stopping the spread of COVID-19?
So, what would I do if my neighbour wasn’t following the mandated health regulations? I know what I should do. I shouldn’t call the authorities. I should talk to them myself. I should have the courage to let my neighbour know their violations of the COVID-19 regulations make me uncomfortable, and I should explain why. If my neighbour and I have had a cordial relationship in the past and I was a good neighbour before the pandemic, odds are they will listen respectfully as I voice my uneasiness about their actions.
I think I’d need to be personal in my approach indicating that my request for them to follow regulations stems from worry for a family member who is an essential worker, or a friend who is immune-compromised or a child who has not yet been able to receive a vaccination. I might point out how rapidly variants are infecting people. A face -to -face conversation could be awkward, if not against lockdown rules, so I might opt to do it by phone or even leave a letter on their front porch along with a plate of home baking. I would start by stating some reasons why I appreciate having them for a neighbour and then voice my concern.
Someone told me about their neighbour who was violating health mandates, but they knew it was because of a family medical emergency and the neighbour’s lack of financial resources. They decided initiating a discussion about regulations would only add to their neighbour’s stress. In an instance like that offering a meal, some money, or connections to community agencies that could provide support and help, is undoubtedly the preferable course of action.
I think there are times when we will have to report a neighbour because we have tried other avenues and they continue to violate regulations in a way that puts the health of our community in jeopardy. But hopefully, it can saved as our last resort.