Thirty Eight Who Saw Murder Didn T Call the Police

Title: Thirty-Eight Who Saw Murder Didn’t Call the Police: A Societal Reflection


In 1964, Martin Gansberg’s groundbreaking article titled “Thirty-Eight Who Saw Murder Didn’t Call the Police” sent shockwaves through society. The piece highlighted the lack of intervention by witnesses in the brutal murder of Kitty Genovese, raising questions about the bystander effect and the moral responsibility of individuals. This article delves into the case, explores possible reasons for the inaction of witnesses, and addresses frequently asked questions regarding this infamous incident.

The Kitty Genovese Case:

On March 13, 1964, in Kew Gardens, New York, Kitty Genovese, a 28-year-old woman, was brutally attacked and murdered near her apartment. Shockingly, despite the prolonged nature of the assault, it was reported that thirty-eight witnesses observed the crime, yet none of them intervened or called the police. This harrowing incident prompted widespread outrage and disbelief, leading to extensive media coverage and subsequent research on the bystander effect.

Understanding the Bystander Effect:

The bystander effect refers to the phenomenon in which individuals are less likely to offer help to a victim when others are present. Psychologists Bibb Latané and John Darley conducted groundbreaking research following the Kitty Genovese case, leading to the identification of several factors that contribute to the bystander effect. Some of these factors include the diffusion of responsibility among witnesses, social influence, and ambiguity about the situation.

Reasons for Inaction:

1. Diffusion of Responsibility: The presence of numerous witnesses can lead individuals to assume that someone else will take responsibility for intervening, creating a diffusion of responsibility. Each person assumes that someone else will act, resulting in collective inaction.

See also  What Can We Observe in Order to Visualize Mendel’s Law of Segregation

2. Fear of Consequences: Witnesses may fear retaliation from the perpetrator or hesitate to involve themselves in a dangerous situation. They may also fear legal consequences or have concerns about their own safety, hindering their willingness to intervene.

3. Ambiguity: In situations where the threat is not clearly perceived or understood, witnesses may be uncertain about the severity of the situation. This ambiguity can lead to bystander apathy, making it less likely for individuals to take action.

4. Social Influence: The behavior of others can significantly influence an individual’s decision to intervene. If they observe no one else taking action, witnesses may conform to the perceived norm and refrain from intervening themselves.


Q1: Did anyone eventually call the police during the Kitty Genovese case?

A: While the initial reports claimed that no one called the police during the incident, subsequent investigations revealed that at least one witness did contact the authorities. However, the response time and effectiveness of the police became a point of concern.

Q2: Did the Kitty Genovese case lead to any legal changes?

A: The Kitty Genovese case significantly influenced the implementation of the 911 emergency service in the United States. This incident served as a catalyst for establishing a direct emergency contact number, ensuring prompt response and assistance in future emergencies.

Q3: What impact did the Kitty Genovese case have on society?

A: The Kitty Genovese case served as a wake-up call, shedding light on the bystander effect and the moral responsibility of individuals in times of crisis. It prompted academic research, public discussions, and awareness campaigns on the importance of intervention and the role of bystanders in preventing harm.

See also  Chief Justice Roger B. Taney and Others Who Favor Local Action Believe In

Q4: Has society made progress in addressing the bystander effect since the Kitty Genovese case?

A: While awareness of the bystander effect has increased, incidents of bystander apathy still occur. However, the case has sparked a collective effort to educate individuals about the importance of intervention, leading to the development of programs and initiatives aimed at empowering bystanders to take action.


The Kitty Genovese case remains a significant event that exposed the dark reality of the bystander effect. Over five decades later, it continues to provoke discussions about the moral responsibility of individuals, the influence of social factors, and the need for intervention in times of crisis. By addressing the FAQs surrounding this case, society can learn from the past and strive towards a more compassionate and proactive future.