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At about 3:20 a.m. on March 13, 1964, Kitty Genovese, a 28-year-old manager of a bar in Queens, New York, returned to her quiet residential neighborhood, parked her car in a lot adjacent to her apartment building, and began to walk the 30 yards through the lot to her door. Noticing a man at the far end of the lot, she paused. When he started toward her, she turned the other way and tried to reach a police call box half a block away. The man caught and stabbed her. She started screaming that she’d been stabbed, and screaming for help,.

Lights went on in the apartment building across the street. Windows opened. One man called out, "Let that girl alone!"

The assailant shrugged and walked away. Windows closed and lights went out. The assailant returned and attacked Genovese again. This time she screamed "I’m dying! I’m dying." This time lots more windows opened and lots more lights went on. The assailant walked to his car and drove away, leaving Ms. Genovese to crawl along the street to her apartment building. Somehow, she managed to drag herself inside.

The assailant returned a third time, found Genovese on the floor at the foot of her stairs, and finally succeeded in killing her.

During those three separate attacks over the course of 35 minutes, not one of Kitty Genovese’s neighbors tried to intervene. No burly neighbor picked up a baseball bat and dashed outside to save her life. Worse than that, of the more than 30 people who saw at least one of the attacks and heard Genovese’s screams and pleas for help, not one of them even called the police. After much deliberation, and one phone call to a friend for advice, one man finally urged another neighbor to call authorities, which she did. Police arrived in two minutes, but by then, it was too late.

Interviewed afterward, the residents admitted, sometimes sheepishly, "I didn’t want to get involved," or "I didn’t want my husband to get involved." One said he was...

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