Bystanders of violent conflicts can play a crucial role in the prevention of harm and injury, because they are present when the police are absent. Despite half a century of bystander studies in sociology, psychology, and criminology, little is known about bystander actions in violent situations. This project focuses on systematic observations and analysis of bystander actions in more than 300 robberies and street fights that have been recorded by CCTV cameras and described in police case files. This is the largest sample of video footage of bystander actions analysed to date. We systematically measure in detail what bystanders do, provide explanations for the causes of variation in their actions, and identify the benign and harmful consequences of these actions for themselves and others. The project will generate a unique evidence-base for the advancement of social science theories of violence, and inform public debates about the role bystanders can play in public safety.
The project will be situated at the Department of Sociology at the University of Copenhagen in joint collaboration with the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and law Enforcement (NSCR). It forms part of the research cluster ‘Criminal Events’ that focuses on the behaviour of offenders, victims, bystanders, and law enforcement in the course of potential and actual criminal events. The aim is to describe the way different actors behave as criminal events unfold, explain the causes of their behaviour, and clarify the consequences of their behaviour for the outcome of the event.