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Pity the poor criminal

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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Washington Star

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.

For a full look at rising crime as accurately reported from all available sources, and a solid, practical and useful guide on how to protect yourself and your property, write for our free booklet, Crime Can Be Stopped . . . Here's How! (Written in collaboration with the Los Angeles Police Department)

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.