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Citizens Not Calling Cops About Murder

Posted Jun 6, 2007 1:17 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Back in the 1960s, there was a major public uproar because residents in the Brooklyn borough of New York City didn't immediately call police as Kitty Genovese was being murdered on the street outside her home. Today, such callous behavior is becoming less of a rarity.

In Chicago, residents of a drug-infested South Side neighborhood didn't alert police Monday night, when a man apparently was shot to death in their apartment building, the Chicago Tribune reports. Only when a building janitor started work yesterday morning and discovered his body in a hallway was a 911 call made. ""He was obviously lying in the hallway for some time, and no one called police," a police spokesman says.

Meanwhile, witnesses present during a murder last week in a hillside home in an upscale Los Angeles community waited nearly a week to alert police about the killing there, reports the Los Angeles Times. The two witnesses were fearful of the killer, but one finally called police when his conscience got the better of him, a city police detective says. Authorities reportedly are still looking for the body of the victim, a former girlfriend of the murderer, but charged a suspect yesterday with shooting the woman to death on May 27. He has pleaded not guilty.

"From the crime scene we clearly established a murder occurred. There was a lot of evidence at the scene," detective Wendy Berndt told the Times.

In the Genovese case, detectives later determined that 38 nearby residents had heard her screams for help on March 13, 1964, but police were first called nearly an hour later and she was dead when they arrived. The public was outraged, particularly since witnesses could have called police from their homes anonymously, and the phrase "Genovese syndrome" was coined to describe "a dark side of the national character ... Americans who were too indifferent or too frightened or too alienated or too self-absorbed to 'get involved' in helping a fellow human being in dire trouble," reports Newsday.

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