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Saturday, 10 May 2008

Would Street people watch an assault and do nothing?

A Radio 4 documentary last week told the story of the girl who was stalked and attacked twice or three times, the third time fatally, in Kew Gardens, New York, while 38 witnesses did nothing, not even call the police.

The tragedy started a whole academic industry, with psychologists trying to find out why the witness behaved like that. The expert was asked if it just happened in big cities. He (or she - I forget which) said that tests were carried out in many small towns, and the towns differed. They had their own character. In some, people responded with help, and in others they didn't.

It set me wondering about Street. We've had a murder and a shooting in Street in the past 3 years. I don't know what neighbours did. I hope they rallied round and at least called the police straight away.

The expert on that radio programme gave this advice: if you are in a group and see an emergency, the tendency is to think that everyone else will do the right thing, and if no one does anything, you persuade yourself that nothing needs to be done. So what you should do is ask out loud whether anyone is doing something to help. If not, then tell one individual to phone the emergency services, and give instructions to other individuals to do other things. If they are given personal tasks, people will act. Good advice, I think.

It reminds me that when there was a car crash at the bottom of my road a few years ago, and I rang 999, I found that I was not the first to report the accident. So perhaps Street is on the side of the angels!

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