To be honest, I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to write about for my blog this time. I surfed the web and channel surfed until I ran across a murder case that took place back in 1964. It was about a young woman by the name of Catherine Susan “Kitty” Genovese that was living in
One day she came home from work in the early hours of the morning and she was approached by a man in the alley behind her apartment complex. This man stabbed her numerous times before fleeing the scene. I know this does not sound like a case out of the ordinary, but the story is not over.
After the stabber fled the scene of the crime, Kitty crawled all the way into the actual apartment building, trying to seek help and avoid further harm. Sadly neither of those things happened. 20 minutes after the initial interaction between the two, the stabber came back to the scene and found a struggling Kitty lying in a hallway. For the next 30 minutes the criminal continued to stab Kitty; he also started raping her, as well. During this entire tragic event, Kitty was screaming for someone to help her, but no one ever came to the rescue. Hours later, the police was eventually called and Kitty died on the way to the hospital. Later on when the investigation was finalized the police found out that dozens of Kitty’s neighbors heard her cries for help, but no one did anything because they figured someone else would take the time to help her out.
The reason I bring up this case is that as law enforcers and people in the criminal justice field we have to understand diffusion of responsibility theory, which is a very under-talked about concept in my opinion. Diffusion of responsibility theory states that people are not as likely to help in situations where there are a lot of witnesses because they figure other someone is going to do it.
With all this talk about community-policing approaches, we have to bring up issues like diffusion of responsibility and find ways to make sure that it does not become a problem in our society. When we bring awareness to problems like these, our best hope is that pointless deaths like that of Catherine Susan “Kitty” Genovese can be avoided.
This short video shows why diffusion of responsibility can become very problematic in our society. There is dramatic scenes in this video including deaths, so do not watch it if you are squeamishness.