A little while ago, upon returning from our holiday, a friend was informed that her brother had been the victim of a vicious assault on a night-bus in London. He had been for a few drinks with friends and was asleep on his journey home when a group of teenagers beat him to the floor, stole several of his belongings and then disembarked unscathed. This may seem like a standard example of crime in the capital, but perhaps one of the most unsettling parts of the story is that this unprovoked attack happened in front of a number of people – all of whom decided not to intervene.
There are certainly untold dangers of involving oneself with a crime that they are indirectly affected by, and it is true that this can often create more trouble than would have been caused initially. What is worrying, though, is that people are willing to look on and watch someone get beaten to a pulp rather than try and help.
I honestly believe that no one can ever predict how they will act in a situation until they experience it for themselves, and perhaps the other passengers were too overwhelmed to take a stand. We are a selfish race concerned with our own interests above those of others, but to have such a shocking example of this happen to someone you know makes me seriously consider how people can care so little for those around them. Just because we do not know someone personally, it does not mean we should care any less if they are unfairly victimised.
I was reminded of another case of this when reading today’s paper. Five teenagers murdered a 15 year old boy in front of scores of onlookers at Victoria station last year, and yet again, no one batted an eyelid. Of the hundreds of commuters recorded on CCTV passing Sofyen Belamouadden by as he was stabbed, not one single person decided that they should try and stop what was going on. Perhaps they couldn’t quite see what was happening, and perhaps they were too busy to stop, but this seems to be simply another instance of people refusing to acknowledge the suffering of those quite literally in front of them.
The dangers of being a hero are also very real, and I don’t mean to suggest that passers-by should wade into every perceived scuffle or incident without a second thought. What I do think, however, is that we should not accept so readily that crime is going to happen and that we can’t do anything about it. Many people chalked Belamouadden’s death up to the expected knife crime activity that is prevalent amongst teenagers in south London, but simply allowing statistics to materialise is not a valid reason for a young boy to lose his life.
I cannot say for certain how I would act should I ever be witness to a crime, but I sincerely hope that I would have the courage to help in any way that I could. There is no guarantee of this, of course, and perhaps those bus passengers or commuters at Victoria station thought the same way before they experienced such events personally. I am not saying that people should brazenly try and break up a gun fight between hardened criminals, but there are often little things we can do to make things a little safer or a little better for those around us. They may not always be particularly convenient, but if they can save someone that unprovoked beating – or even their life, it is surely worth the hassle.