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An informant (known in law enforcement as a criminal informant or C.I.) is someone who provides privileged information about a person or organization to an agency, usually law enforcement, without the consent of that person or organization.

Several slang terms for informants are known, such as rat,[1] snitch[1], Stool Pigeon, Spotter, squealer[1], and fink.[1]

Informer types

Criminal informants

Informants are most commonly found in the world of organized crime[How to reference and link to summary or text]. By its very nature, organized crime involves many people who are aware of each others guilt in a variety of illegal activities. Quite frequently, informants will provide information in order to obtain lenient treatment for themselves and provide information over an extended period of time in return for money or for police to overlook their own criminal activities. Quite often someone will become an informant following their arrest.

Informants are also extremely common in every-day police work, including homicide and narcotics investigations. Any citizen who aids an investigation by offering helpful information to the police is by definition a criminal informant[How to reference and link to summary or text]. This includes victims, witnesses, members of communities who know the "word on the street," and anonymous callers. Informants are often unable to offer concrete evidence but are nevertheless helpful in providing leads that may help bring authorities closer to an eventual conviction.

The CIA has been criticized for letting major drug lords out of prison as informants[How to reference and link to summary or text]. Informants may be allowed to engage in some crimes, so that the potential informant can blend into the criminal environment without suspicion.

Informants are regarded as traitors by their former criminal associates. Whatever the nature of a group, it is bound to feel strong hostility towards any known informers, regard them as threats and inflict punishments ranging from social ostracism through physical abuse and/or death[How to reference and link to summary or text]. Informers are therefore generally protected, either by being segregated in prison or, if they are not incarcerated, relocated under a new identity.

Labor organization informers

Corporations and the detective agencies that sometimes represent them have historically hired labor spies to monitor or control labor organizations and their activities. Such individuals may be professionals or recruits from the workforce. They may be willing accomplices, or may be tricked into informing on their co-workers' unionization efforts.

See also


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