There was a time in which an entire group of people were punished for the actions of a sole individual. Fortunately, this type of shared responsibility exists in few places now. However, shared responsibility for crime does still exist on some level.
One individual can be held no more responsible for the actions of an entire group as can the entire group be held responsible for the actions of an individual. In other words, it is not the responsibility of a sole individual to prevent a crime. Rather, it is up to society to share the responsibility of crime prevention.
"He who does not prevent a crime when he can, encourages it," according to Seneca, the Roman Philosopher of the mid-1st century AD. This is a statement that holds true still today and is the premise behind shared responsibility in crime prevention. People who knowingly profit from crimes committed by a sole individual can be held partly accountable for that crime. We have seen this many times in recent years when dealing with money laundering in major corporations. Furthermore, people who knowingly allow a crime to continue, such as that in domestic abuse cases, can still assume part responsibility for not attempting to prevent the crime from reoccurring.
The United States creates laws to govern its society in order to maintain social order. The laws are set forth in their entirety for us to obey. An individual has free will, and provided they are capable of rational thought, the individual is aware of his or her actions, thus knowing right from wrong. Therefore, if an individual commits a crime, it is only fair to punish them for that crime. Most people are able to make the choice to commit a crime or not as long as they are capable of complete mental awareness.
Shared responsibility in crime prevention can include setting up neighborhood watches and becoming an active member of their community. Knowing the laws is perhaps the most important thing in the aspect of both shared and individual responsibility. If we know the law, we are able to make a solid mental decision based on facts when making the choice for an action as an individual. Knowing the law also makes us aware when and where a crime is being committed so we can help prevent it by contacting local law enforcement officials.
Shared responsibility vs. individual responsibility as you can see can include several factors ranging from crime prevention to actual crime. We do not want to lean too far in either direction. We do not want to take responsibility for another's actions. However, we do and should want to help prevent or stop a crime from occurring when we can. This is an issue that is hotly debated among society and will remain so as long as crime exists.