It doesn’t happen to everyone, but it does happen to some; and it could one day happen to you. You’re going along about your business, then suddenly, there right in front of you, someone is committing a crime. What do you do?
Well, the answer of course will depend on a lot of things, the most important of which would be, the nature of the crime, whether the person committing the crime knows you saw what happened, and how you feel about the criminal justice system.
Most people are generally willing to forgive someone they see committing a small or petty crime, such as shoplifting, but are much less willing if the crime has a definite victim, such as a mugging or a murder. This is because there is emotional guilt involved because you know that someone is hurting because they don’t know who did the crime, and you know who it is, and you could relieve some of their anger or pain if you were to come forward.
On the other hand, because life gets too complicated, people tend to want to avoid getting involved in anything that might cause a disruption in their own life, or worse put themselves at risk simply because they happened to be at a certain place at a certain time.
So, it keeps coming back to the original question. What to do if you witness a crime.
The answer is, it depends on how strongly you feel about fairness and justice, and how you see the situation. For example if you see the perpetuator as someone just out to try to get by, or as trying to feed their family, you quite naturally wouldn’t feel a compunction to turn them in. Whereas if you saw them as some hood just doing whatever he feels like with no concern for anybody else, you might be happy to aid in sending him off to be locked up somewhere, where he clearly belongs.
Thus, more often than not, the answer has more to do with who you are, than who they are and what they might have done.
Is it a crime to not come forward if you saw someone do something illegal? Not unless you did something to aid or abet their capture or escape. And you could be sued by a family if you are later found out. Also, if for some reason an officer of the law happens to ask you if you saw what happened and you lie, that is something that could land you in jail.
But the bottom line is, if you witness a crime, it is almost always completely up to your discretion as to what to do, and that is something you will have to decide for yourself.