Paradoxically, millions of our people live in fear of crime. Still, attitudes toward criminals continue to soften — some crimes are so sensationalized the culprits are virtually praised as heroes. What's happening to old-fashioned indignation against wrongdoing? This article probes current trends, and offers some logical reasons for them. "CONGRATULATIONS! Your son has done a remarkable thing!" beamed the shopkeeper in Rome.
He was talking to the father of captured hijacker, Raffaele Minichiello, who had electrified the world by forcing the crew of an American airliner, TWA Flight 85 bound for San Francisco from Los Angeles, to fly to Rome.
Television newscasters referred to the crime with barely concealed tongue-in-cheek amusement.
Sensational headlines reported the international squabbles about extradition to the United States, or whether the young hijacker should be tried in Italy. In most reports, the stress seemed primarily on the young man, his motives, frustrations, actions during the commission of the crime. One newscast observed rather routinely that the passengers had been only mildly discomfited — perhaps delayed no longer than many a normal air traffic delay in this modern age of crowded skies and jammed airports.
Glaringly absent (we've grown "accustomed" to hijacking of airplanes now!) was any clear-cut explanation of the constant terror and fear all passengers would have felt — knowing a man armed with semi-automatic carbine was in the airplane cockpit. There was only sketchy information in early reports about the stress on the plane's crew, the continual danger of sudden aberrant behavior from the nervous hijacker, the danger of malfunction of an airplane denied regular airline ground servicing and normal stops, the possibility of crashes during takeoff or landings as a result of unusual pressures on the pilots, or the potential disruption of important in-flight airplane systems resulting from a gunshot fired into the overhead of the airplane forward of the galley area.
It would seem doubtful that the airline captain — flying the lonely Atlantic without preparation or sleep — constantly in threat of his life, would feel like congratulating the boy or his father for having accomplished anything particularly significant.
It would seem doubtful too that the Italian police chief who approached the plane at Rome's Fiumicino Airport with hands aloft, and then drove the young man to a copse of woods with a fully loaded and cocked gun held to his head would be in a congratulatory mood.
Somehow, the public was being subtly told aircraft hijacking is just not all that bad.
It was observed the boy had "set a new record" with the distance covered during his gunpoint ride — thus placing the crime in the general area of a sort of sport, like pole vaulting, skydiving, or round-the-world trips in small boats. Presumably, upon reading the sensationalized stories, some demented creep will soon leap into public attention with an attempt at a much longer hijacking, merely for the purpose of breaking "the old record" and with no particular destination in mind.
But are we unaware of the seriousness of crime?
Do we fail to understand that severest penalty for such an act is DEATH? Does not the public know that stealing a multi-million-dollar airplane; kidnapping many, many people (in itself calling for the death penalty in some states); threatening murder continually; taking, by force of arms, his victims across many state borders, and across several international borders; carrying a concealed weapon — that these are only a few of the serious charges that can be leveled against such a person?
This is not to say the public believes hijacking is a sport, nor that it carries no penalties. But it is to state that there is a definitely changing mood in public attitudes toward crime.
A Paradox And how ironic this shift in attitude is when viewed in the light of other changing moods; America in particular.
All across the country, people's daily habits are being changed by fear of crime. Articles have shown repeatedly how many people, themselves never the victims of crime, live in continual fear of being a victim, even in basically "crime-free" neighborhoods.
The truth is your chances are now about 1 in 54 of being a victim of a criminal act if you live in America. Only a few years ago, your chances were 1 in 100.
People don't walk the streets at night like they used to. Cabbies in many a big city note the drop-off in business (talk to them in Washington, D.C. and find out!) as a result of people "holing up behind drawn blinds" at night.
Residents have bought new locks, alarm systems (some very elaborate and costly), big and vocal dogs, revolvers and other weapons, and have been known to clip shrubbery from their doorways that could offer potential concealment to a criminal.
The sales of such items, including the pocket-sized vials of tear gas, whistles, knives, long hatpins and other gadgets for self-protection, have soared in recent years.
It's practically an old homespun American joke now — the wife-wakes-husband routine with the statement, "John, I hear a burglar downstairs!"
But when it's fact instead of fancy, the victims aren't laughing or applauding — they're generally terrified.
Crime has skyrocketed by proportions beyond any predictions only a decade ago. Many inner urban areas are virtually deserted at night, invaded by mobs of itinerant workers by day and quickly vacated in the daily exodus at rush hour.
Service station managers, clerks in liquor stores, dairy bars, small restaurants and bars are continually aware, especially in the big cities, of the potential for armed robbery — and it's doubtful they feel comfortable with any customer unless he's well known to them personally.
Organized crime is mostly out of sight — played down as it were. But the crimes in the news are just as vicious as any reported during the gangster era of prohibition.
For example, in the wake of the grisly Sharon Tate murders, when Miss Tate, wife of Polish movie director, Roman Polanski, was found dead along with four other friends, even other motion picture personalities reacted with fear.
And no wonder, since it was only a little later that a middle-age businessman and his wife were found murdered in the same general area, and only a little later still that William Lennon, the father of the Lennon Sisters singing group, was slain.
Singer Connie Stevens was interviewed on the patio of her Bel-Air mansion, about a half mile from the mansion where the Tate murders occurred. She said she was terrified of the area and "scared stiff" at night.
Miss Stevens said that during a recent trip to London for a TV show, a veritable army of electricians and burglar alarm experts were working to make her home as safe as possible.
The area around the mansion is now floodlit at night, and every door and window is carefully wired to an alarm system.
Not feeling adequately protected with this, there is also a collection of watch dogs with emphasis on size and vocal power.
Strange, isn't it? Even those who are the envy of millions of the middle-income theater-goers of our lands — who can afford large mansions in fabulous Bel-Air — still must live with the fears and worries of many a ghetto dweller.
All because of the terror of rising crime and violence.
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An Ad for the Future? A Crime-Oriented Society?
A recent Harris Poll reported in Life magazine showed that many major American cities have undergone significant changes as a direct result of rising crime.
An ad for the future might read as the one in the box, which is not too far out from those currently in vogue. The changes in the cities are most notable in the downtown areas at night. But even architecture, design, lighting, and the location of electrical equipment must now take into consideration the continual threat of burglary and more violent crimes.
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The Poll showed 55 percent of the people living in big cities are more likely to keep their homes locked, even when at home, than in previous years. Forty-eight percent were less likely to use public areas and parks at night; thirty-three percent less likely to use them even in the daytime.
Forty-one percent had sharply curtailed their habitual trips downtown for restaurants and movies as a direct result of crime-related fears.
Thirty-nine percent were less likely to move about their own neighborhoods for the same reason. Twenty-nine percent had bought additional safeguards, and sixteen percent had purchased guns.
Hardware store owners prosper, but cab drivers, downtown restaurants and theaters do not. All because of shifting habits from fear of crime.
Even the modern design of homes plays a part. Not only do we see higher incidence of the protected, walled "villages" complete with uniformed guards at the gates, but more and more architects are designing homes with all the living areas facing to the rear, or inward upon a secluded patio, rather than toward the street. Not all this shift in design is by any means crime related, but some is.
Some designers have speculated that American architecture may be returning to the centuries-old practice of huge gates, high walls and windowless buildings — with all social and private life directed toward inner, locked courts. Some apartment complexes already offer such advantages for single women.
Let's face it — millions live in fear of crime. But perhaps a little healthy fear of crime is better, after all, than being a victim. Some of the victims are dead. Others may wish they were.
Fear of Being "Involved" Further, Americans have learned it's useless to depend on help in an emergency. From the now-famous "Kitty Genovese" murder of years ago, when many residents watched while an attacker stabbed the woman repeatedly, actually departing and returning three times — to the daily cases of victims of crimes being denied assistance by homeowners or passersby — we have been duly warned that our fellows may not help us.
They not only may not come to our aid — they may refuse to testify we were hurt, for the fear an unknown criminal might retaliate.
So fearful are many of being "involved" that they will remain securely locked in their homes while listening to screams, shouts, continual honking of auto horns, or even gunshots. It could be a woman being attacked, or a liquor store owner being robbed, or a driver witnessing a crime and trying to signal help, or a policeman firing his revolver in the air to get help in the face of a group of thugs — but the average American is fearful of being involved.
Knowing this — knowing we can't expect help in a time of crisis — most of us are even more poignantly aware of the need to protect ourselves, to avoid being exposed to a potential criminal act in the first place. So we stay inside.
Plight of the Policeman While some big city police forces have noted with alarm a thinning of their ranks, the hiring of private security forces has risen as never before. Not only have rapid population growth patterns of big cities meant most police forces have been rendered proportionately more ineffective, but the quality of their officers has gone down.
Many explain why.
They say the courts are turning criminals loose with barely a slap on the hand, that the criminal has a better than even chance of getting away with his crime, and, in the event of stolen goods, even having the goods returned to him.
Many policemen are thoroughly disgusted with the laborious procedures imposed upon them during an arrest, in order not to interfere with the "rights" of a criminal.
Some openly wonder who is handcuffing whom.
Older, experienced officers are retiring early. Some are resigning — even in the face of missing out on civil service retirement pay — and even this can reflect fear of being victimized by crime.
Policemen are human, too — in spite of the curses, abuse, hatred and prejudice leveled against them. They are usually family men with children, living in smaller homes. They, too, can become gripped with a certain amount of fear. And so can their wives and children.
What policeman's wife is there in America today who does not know the almost daily apprehension that the wife of a soldier in Vietnam faces? She knows her husband faces, daily, the possibility of assault, injury, or worse, death. One in six police officers was assaulted last year!
Two ex-marine corps officers, longtime members of San Francisco's Police Department, suddenly quit. They told why. Seems they had apprehended some automobile thieves in the very act of stripping cars — stealing engines and parts. Through some technicality, the judge not only dismissed the case, but returned the stolen goods to the criminals.
Police forces, therefore, are experiencing a shifting of personnel. There is a gradual disappearance of the older veteran, a difficulty in recruiting the right kind of younger man, and the increasing possibility of being overwhelmed by the sheer size of violent outbursts because of lack of sufficient numbers of uniformed officers to control it.
Sometimes, the public is made to feel afraid of the police. But there is always a sound, sane balance between allowing a free society to revert to a "police state" and a shackling of the duly constituted police forces so as to make them helpless to perform their duties.
What happens when a city is left without police for a time? Unfortunately, Montreal, Canada, had opportunity to find out. During a 16-hour strike by the Montreal Police, there were six bank robberies, over 100 shops looted, numerous burglaries, 12 fires, property damages totaling nearly $3,000,000, and two men shot to death!
Yet, it was generally agreed that Montreal was lucky to escape as lightly as it did.
Why the Problem? The answers to the growing problems of crime are simpler than they seem.
First, it's time we realized the vital part the home and the family play in the character of a nation. Criminals are made, not born! Juvenile delinquency began mushrooming in the 50's when the "war babies" were reaching their early teens. The combined forces of mounting affluence, more leisure time, more independence for mothers, growing divorce and unsettled home life, and the gradual preoccupation with violence in entertainment all played their part.
Meanwhile, there was progressive education and the "new morality."
Viewed in the perspective of the past 15 years and the changing character of our peoples, it's comparatively easy to see how crime has grown by leaps and bounds. Lack of sound moral values from home, school and church; all the aforementioned forces at work in society; and the growing scope of worldwide problems threatening the very survival of all humanity, have all played their part in producing the attitudes of our violence-prone populace.
To illustrate the basic CAUSES for mounting crime, and the CAUSES for our growing concern for the criminal as opposed to his victims, take another look at your own forms of entertainment. Take a look at television programming over the past decade.
What a paradox it is that Americans are tending more toward "fear patterns" of behavior when selecting their apartments and homes, or in shopping, going to work, or purchasing various personal protection devices, yet their most insistent demands upon the entertainment producers are for MORE AND MORE VIOLENCE!
The TV networks and their affiliates are in the business of providing the public with what the public wants.
They operate within the regulatory restrictions of a Federal Commission.
They are continually subject to criticism, evaluation, and are themselves evaluators and criticizers of all public and social issues.
But the producers of TV shows are looking for ratings. And ratings come from the numbers of people who watch their shows. And the sponsors of TV programs want to make sure the very largest possible numbers of people see their products advertised. It's all quite simple. The ratings represent a constantly updated survey Of WHAT THE PUBLIC WANTS TO SEE.
And the answer has been, at least over a large number of years, MORE VIOLENCE Of course, the public does not make its wishes known in any such simple manner as saying "give us more violence," but the public does buy the products advertised. The rating firms dutifully report the viewing habits. Shows are cancelled, or shifted to class C times. Out of it all comes the pattern of TV viewing as you, the viewer, experience it.
The public wants sex, (in every possible twisted, distorted, and unusual form) violence, hilarity, relaxation, entertainment. It wants that TV set to do precisely what it's plugged in for — carry them away through that magic window into the most desirable forms of escape from their daily cares, and keep them ever more entranced. No one watches shows he dislikes. The TV viewing habits are true measures of what the public wants.
And how utterly ironic it is.
The public sits securely behind locked doors with burglar alarms turned on, backyard floodlit, loaded gun in dresser drawer, huge police dog sleeping peacefully beside favorite chair, and stares by the hour at every conceivable form of violence over television.
Perhaps one of the most bizarre illustrations of this irony was the mafia-type shootout that occurred outside the home of a lady in Las Vegas. Hours after police had found a man slumped over the wheel of his car just outside her door, the victim of a fusillade of gangland bullets, the lady was questioned about whether she heard the shots.
Yes, seems she had heard them alright. Then why didn't she call police? Seems she didn't want to get interrupted — she was watching her favorite "cops and robbers" type television show at the time.
Alarming Trends To see how really incongruous the whole situation is, let's realize a few important trends exist. First, crime is rising each year — alarmingly so. Second, the victims of criminal acts have found, as have the police, that other private citizens are unwilling to come to their aid, even unwilling to testify in their behalf to punish a criminal. Third, the trends show far more "involvement" from the private sector against the police, that is, helping a criminal escape, or refusing to come to the aid of an arresting officer, than involvement for the police.
Fourth, people do want to become more and more involved in crime — but vicariously, "second-hand," as spectators in motion pictures, television, or reading of viciousness and violence in paperbacks and magazines.
Meanwhile, the beleaguered police departments find themselves on the defensive, losing good officers, finding their arrests were often useless, continually meeting hostility from the public.
A veteran police officer, previously a U.S. Marine machine-gunner who had fought on Iwo Jima, turned in his badge in San Francisco. "I've had it, I'm fed up," he said.
He is 43. And he has an ulcer.
But why quit after 12 years on the police force, and with a meritorious citation for disarming a bank robber? "I've had it. The courts haven't backed us up. The laws don't mean a thing. I'm fed up with the low class element that's floated into San Francisco. They throw rocks at us. They curse us. They spit at us. If we arrest them and take them to court, they're released. I've been thinking about this for two or three years. Getting the ulcer just triggered it."
A Police Inspector, from the same city, also resigned. "They let the hoods out faster than we can lock them up," said Inspector Bernard Deloughary, who had been with the department since 1950. "I'm sick of the 'O, that poor boy' attitude judges and juries have toward defendants."
Let's face it, the public attitudes toward crime, and the criminal, are eroding. A survey of 1,700 persons found that 91 percent of them admitted having committed one or more offenses for which they might have received jail or prison sentences.
According to the President's Commission on Crime, our peoples must begin to "reject the cynical argument... that 'anything goes as long as you don't get caught.' "
What has happened to our sense of moral values?
As peoples we are losing national purpose — transcendent goals. As individuals, we are losing our capacity for righteous indignation over criminal and immoral acts.
First, because our whole family structure is breaking down! Divorce, at the present rate, rips up more than one in four of our homes — most of the others are nowhere near as happy, or as stable, as they should be.
Illegitimacy, pornography, loosening morals all play a part.
A tremendous percentage (police estimate more than one half) of all crime is directly drug related, thus plainly illustrating the obvious link between crime and personal passions, lusts, greediness and self-seeking.
Our entertainment and leisure have become increasingly hedonistic, nihilistic, and "sick." Young people are influenced to laugh at the most hideous and brutal acts, to "enjoy" thrill-kills, mass murder, rapes, brutal beatings, hangings, all assorted forms of torture and sadistic perversion.
Our mental diet is filled with too many poisons, too much "roughage," too much poor-quality food.
So don't be overly shocked at the growing public concern for the criminal, instead of his victims. The more we relate to crime, the more we enjoy watching it, enjoying it vicariously, the more and more difficulty we'll have in shaking ourselves free from the nebulous, dull grey of "situation ethics," and the more certain will be our ultimate collapse as a society.
The character of her peoples is what makes nations great.
What is our national character? Or, perhaps better asked, where is it?
WHY no respect for law and order? WHY no respect for authority, private property, or the rights of others? WHY? Because modern society has lost sight of the very SOURCE of ALL law and authority!
At the request of our readers, we have prepared a book explaining plainly this often-misunderstood source — The Ten Commandments