38 Who Saw Murder Didn T Call the Police Analysis

38 Who Saw Murder Didn’t Call the Police Analysis


In 1964, a chilling incident occurred in the Kew Gardens neighborhood of Queens, New York. A young woman, Kitty Genovese, was brutally attacked and murdered outside her apartment building. What made this incident even more shocking was the fact that 38 witnesses claimed to have seen or heard the attack, yet none of them called the police or intervened to help. This shocking case prompted much debate and analysis, raising questions about the bystander effect, the diffusion of responsibility, and the moral obligations of individuals in society. This article will delve into a detailed analysis of the infamous incident, examining the factors that contributed to the witnesses’ inaction and exploring the lasting implications of this tragic event.

Analysis of the Incident

The Kitty Genovese case became a focal point for studying social psychology due to the astounding number of witnesses who failed to intervene. The incident took place in the early hours of March 13, 1964, when Kitty Genovese was attacked by Winston Moseley, a serial killer. He initially assaulted her outside her apartment building, but she managed to escape into the building’s hallway. Moseley pursued her, stabbed her multiple times, and ultimately killed her. It was later revealed that this brutal attack lasted over half an hour.

Despite the length of the assault and the number of witnesses, no one called the police during the attack. The reasons for their inaction were attributed to the bystander effect and the diffusion of responsibility. The bystander effect is a phenomenon in which individuals are less likely to help someone in need when others are present. This is because people often assume that someone else will take action, leading to a diffusion of responsibility where no one feels individually accountable.

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Psychologists John Darley and Bibb Latané conducted experiments to understand the bystander effect, which was later applied to the Kitty Genovese case. They found that the more witnesses there are, the less likely any individual is to take action. In the case of Kitty Genovese, the large number of witnesses created a diffusion of responsibility, where each person assumed that someone else would call for help. This diffusion of responsibility led to a collective inaction that allowed the attack to continue unchecked.

The Kitty Genovese case also raised questions about the moral obligations of individuals in society. Many critics argued that the witnesses had a moral duty to intervene or at least call the police. However, this incident highlighted the complexities of human psychology and the challenges individuals face when confronted with dangerous, ambiguous situations. Fear, uncertainty, and the belief that someone else will take responsibility can paralyze even the most well-intentioned individuals.


Q: What were the consequences of the Kitty Genovese case?

A: The Kitty Genovese case had far-reaching consequences. It led to increased public awareness of the bystander effect and diffusion of responsibility, prompting psychologists to study these phenomena further. The incident also influenced the implementation of the 911 emergency system in the United States, making it easier for witnesses to report crimes.

Q: Did the witnesses face any legal consequences for their inaction?

A: No, the witnesses did not face any legal consequences for their failure to intervene or call the police. While their inaction was widely criticized, there were no legal obligations at the time for bystanders to intervene in such situations.

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Q: Has society learned from the Kitty Genovese case?

A: The Kitty Genovese case has served as a wake-up call for society. It has sparked discussions about the importance of individual responsibility and the need to overcome the bystander effect. Today, there are campaigns and educational programs aimed at encouraging people to intervene or report crimes they witness.

Q: Are there any recent incidents similar to the Kitty Genovese case?

A: While there have been incidents resembling the Kitty Genovese case in terms of bystander inaction, none have gained the same level of attention. However, the incident continues to serve as a cautionary tale and a reminder of the potential consequences of collective apathy.


The Kitty Genovese case remains a haunting reminder of the potential consequences of the bystander effect and diffusion of responsibility. It serves as a catalyst for ongoing discussions about individual moral obligations, societal responsibility, and the need for increased awareness of the psychological factors that can hinder our willingness to intervene. While the incident was tragic and disturbing, it has played a crucial role in shaping our understanding of human behavior and highlighting the importance of taking action in the face of danger.