January 5, 2005

HELLO KITTY (via Ali):

Cowardly cops look on as gangsters pummel student to death (Ryann Connell, January 4, 2005, Mainichi)

Kuniaki Uranaka was a bookish postgraduate student with a sense of righteousness that enabled him to fearlessly take on even the toughest yakuza.

Unfortunately for Uranaka, even the finest vanguard of the Hyogo Prefectural Police couldn't collectively muster the same cojones as he had shown, according to Yomiuri Weekly (1/9-16), which the Kobe District Court confirmed last month when it ruled his death had been the result of law enforcers' mikoroshi, a delightful Japanese word meaning "to stand idly by while another dies."

Can't be a good sign when there's a word in your own language for this--we call it acting French.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 5, 2005 12:45 PM

In New York it would be the "Kitty Genovese Syndrome", though in that case it was only the area residents who failed to act, as opposed to the local law enforcement officials.

Posted by: John at January 5, 2005 1:06 PM

Was the Genovese attack really a symptom of moral malaise?

Or whas it simply the result of people not noticing what was going on in the street below thanks to city noise?


Posted by: Ali Choudhury at January 5, 2005 1:47 PM

Americans are vastly more tolerant of crime than the Japanese.

Posted by: carter at January 5, 2005 2:22 PM

If we don't have a word for it, then we need to get one, since the phenomenon is familiar to most Americans living near donut shops.

Posted by: h-man at January 5, 2005 2:50 PM

The Japanese see the Yakuza as a part of society, they are hired to go to stockholder meetings and beat up people who oppose management as T. Boone Pickens found out. I would imagine that the police on the scene assumed that the 'dispute' was between various groups of Yakuza and if they killed each other, it was just business as usual. People disappear for business reasons in Japan all the time. Had they seen the victims as essentially innocent people trapped in a dispute not of their own making, the attitude of the police would have been quite different, as the subsequent punishment of the offenders indicates.

Our situation is different. In America, the constabulary in inner cities for the most part work for the criminals. In Brooklyn, we had the scandal of the 'Dirty 30', the 30th precinct, where cops worked as muscle for a local drug kingpin until they came up with the clever idea of replacing him as the kingpin. Urban law enforcement is the result of demands by businesses and merchants dealing with affluent people to be looked out for, not out of any desire to 'fight crime' or 'keep the streets safe.'

In suburban America, the police serve mostly as ticket writers, they enforce a whole laundry list of fines merely for the purpose of revenue enhancement. If you criminalize a bunch of otherwise reasonable behaviors from parking on a side street to burning leaves to watering your lawn on odd days, you can quickly raise enough revenue to avoid a tax increase. The people who become police in suburbia today are for the most part dysfunctional, kids in the average or lower classes who got beat up a lot and who have a burr up their derrieres to get back at society. The same kinds of people become IRS auditors or bill collectors.

The safest neighborhoods in NYC are not the rich quartiers of the Upper East Side and Sutton Place, but are instead the more working class areas of Bensonhurst and Chinatown. The reason is quite simple. Both areas are the home of local gangsters, Bensonhurst for many Italian and Russian mobsters. Somebody might get killed for business reasons, but normal people are safe 24 hours a day in either place, and the gangsters wouldn't have it any other way. They don't want anyone mugging their wives and mothers any more than you do.

Posted by: Bart at January 5, 2005 3:54 PM

If I recall correctly, there was a lot of criticism of the police for the Columbine massacre because they waited until it was safe for them to enter the school as opposed to regarding the safety of the fleeing students first.

I think Bart's overall critique of the police is rather harsh, but had too much of the truth.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at January 5, 2005 4:09 PM