Police arrest four in connection with the murder of Reyna Aguirre-Alonso.
Cookie says police brought Aguirre-Alonso back to the bodega about five hours later. She says Aguirre-Alonso told her that detectives pressured her to identify Aldea as the shooter, but that she couldn’t because she insisted it was too dark to see the shooter’s face.
“I don’t hate the police, but they know what kind of neighborhood this is,” she says. “Everyone in Philadelphia knows Mutter Street. So why would they pick up somebody in broad daylight, an eyewitness to a murder, and then drop her back here and just leave it like that?”
Last month, PW spoke to Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Ross for a cover story about a new “Start Snitching” campaign, and he insisted the PPD handles witness questioning and cooperation in a delicate manner.
“In some of these environments, you’re not even gonna try to [question them] right there,” Ross said at the time. “You have to kinda slyly sneak somebody a card. We’re not trying to tip off the whole neighborhood.”
But that doesn’t appear to be what happened with Aguirre-Alonso. Bucceroni says that in the wake of her death, dozens of residents in the neighborhood who were planning to join town-watch groups or participate in other anti-crime programs have told him to forget it.
Rather than give up, though, he’s altering his pitch to “See Something, Say Something on the Down Low.” He’s trying to teach people how to use pre-paid cell phones or anonymous email addresses to report crime without having anything traced back to them. “Don’t use your phone for anything other than 911 calls, because in a major investigation like a homicide, they’ll subpoena phone records and try to figure out who you are,” he advises, adding that people should never give any personal information to 911 operators.
In an ideal world, where there’s an emphasis on witness protection, Bucceroni says that such measures wouldn’t be necessary. “But all [police] wanna do is solve the case, and some of them don’t give two shits about you. Not all of them, but some. But until they decide to protect [witnesses] better, this is what you gotta do.”
Bucceroni’s mildly encouraged by Mayor Nutter’s newly unveiled crime-fighting plan, which promises more funds for witness protection, but he says there’s too much of a disconnect between the Nutter administration and the residents of rough neighborhoods for officials to truly understand why people won’t cooperate with police.
“They talk a whole lot, but they don’t live in that world, they don’t understand the dangers,” says Bucceroni. “I want them to know what every citizen feels. It’s easy when they do the walks [in bad neighborhoods] and there’s 50,000 cops and news cameras around. No—I want you to leave the cameras and the cops and the guns behind, take SEPTA to the location and engage with some of these guys on the corner, and then I want you to feel the anxiety that goes through you on the way back while you’re waiting on that corner at midnight for the bus. Only then will you know the fear these people have, and you’ll understand why we need to protect witnesses.”
Still, Bucceroni believes that the uproar over the circumstances surrounding Aguirre-Alonso’s killing will force improvements in city policy and police procedure regarding witnesses. “It’s unfortunate we have to create change at the cost of someone’s life, but change will come,” he says. “And if it doesn’t come, then I will motherfuck these guys until it does.”
It’s inevitable Torain will catch flak as a hip-hop turncoat, but that doesn’t seem to faze him. “I don’t give a fuck what anyone says about me,” he says. But Torain’s got plenty of fans and followers, too. Maybe his voice—deeply embedded in popular youth culture, rather than critical from afar—can turn the tide against “stop snitching” in a way that others haven’t.
Letters to the Editor