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Bystander Effect : The Dark Figure Of Crime

2039 words - 9 pages

In the year of 2012; 10,189,902 criminal offenses took place in the USA and were made known to law enforcement (FBI Uniform Crime Reports 2012). Another 3-3.4 million crimes were estimated to have been committed and not reported (Bureau of Justice Statics 2012), making for a total of around 13,189,902 crimes committed in the year of 2012. This figure of unreported crime is referred to as the dark figure of crime and will never truly be known. This figure exists for a number of reasons including, fear of the victim to come forward, lack of resources available to the victim, lack of understanding by the victim regarding his or her options, and lastly the lack of help from outsiders. This lack of help can best be referred to as the bystander effect. The bystander effect is the social psychological phenomenon that takes place when individuals do not offer any type of assistance to a victim of a crime or medical emergency. (Henslin 2005). Note, this theory does not only apply to victims of crime, but also to victims of medical or physical emergencies. This theory was originally tested in 1986 by John M. Darley and Bibb Latene in reaction to the famous rape and murder case of Kitty Gonovese in 1964 and has since been further examined. The key components that contribute to the bystander effect include diffusion of responsibility, personal cost of getting involved, type of crime, relationships and exposure to, or knowledge of crime.
The first, and perhaps biggest issue, when it comes to the lack of involvement by civilians who witness a crime, or emergence, is the diffusion of responsibility. This is the concept that some one else will help the victim because of the amount of other people around. This is a dangerous idea because if everyone thinks that someone else will do something then there is a high possibility that no one, like we have seen in many cases, will do anything. The person who witnesses a crime and choses to do absolutely nothing about it is labeled as a non-intervener (Goodstein, and Shotland 1984). It is common in the case of the non-intervener, that they a) did not recognize that a crime was taking place, b) did not feel that they were competent enough or responsible to deal with the intervention, or c) they simply did not want to be burdened with getting involved so they chose to block out the situation completely.
Another common response exhibited by bystanders that would fall into the category of diffusion of responsibility would be indirect intervention. Indirect intervention is when someone notices a crime is happening and feels some responsibility to do something, but simply feels that they do not want to handle the situation for a number of reasons so they choose to tell someone else about it (Goodstein, and Shotland 1984). This gives the bystander the ability to convince themselves that they did do “something” to get the victim help. A number of studies have been done, not only to...

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