The Victorian Omnium-Gatherum
Colonel Henderson, in his Police Report for 1872, says :- "The number of offences against property might be most perceptibly reduced if housekeepers would observe more circumspection and prudence. It is not too much to say that half the windows in London can be opened with an ordinary putty knife, while valuable possessions are often left wholly insecure. In many districts property is exposed for sale, linen is left to dry in back gardens (a favourite subject for petty larceny), and facilities are given for theft which not only swells the lists of crime, but also tends to foster a race of thieves; for, after all, it is a trade which flourishes according to its facilities of expansion.
"In the capital district of England, we possess a constabular army of about 10,000 men, counting all classes, the special as well as the ordinary. This total is on the increase—700 men being added during the year.
"There were 30,000 convictions for 'drunk and disorderly,' last year, representing the very worst cases.
"The offence of petty larceny, burglaries, shopliftings, and common robberies, have most substantially diminished, reckoning the vast increase of population.
"More than 71,000 individuals were apprehended last year which appears to be an average number.
"Nearly one in three policemen, in a lesser or greater degree, was damaged while performing his duty in 1871, and the pension list for men irretrievably injured is continually being swelled in its proportions.
"The principal difficulty in the way of recruiting the police is a deficiency on the part of candidates in height, though the standard is only five feet seven inches. Another is ignorance, the persons presenting themselves not being competent to understand their instructions. That this is a body requiring a supplement of strength from time to time need hardly be suggested, if we consider that in a single year there have been added to London 226 new streets and two new squares, making an extra beat of not far from forty miles. It is marvellous how our big village grows—635 miles within the last ten years, or as far as Inverness, and a good day's gallop beyond.
"Last year nearly 9,000 stray dogs were picked up by the police; about 8,000 were sent to the asylum for lost and starving dogs at Battersea, 725 were restored to their owners, and 65 escaped. It will be seen, therefore, that while a policeman's responsibilities are onerous, his avocations are multifarious. This duty" continues the First Commissioner of Police, "is a very risky one, and many of the police have been severely bitten in ridding the streets of these useless curs.
"Another work assigned to the police is that involved in searching for lost persons—a toil of which even some professional inquiry officers can have little conception. In the year 1870 there were no fewer than 5,733 of such cases of lost persons, of whom 3,794 were children under ten years of age. The police found and restored 2,619 children and 446 adults; 62 adults committed suicide; and, at the close of December 65 adults and 4 children were still missing.
"The metropolitan police were present at between 700 and 800 fires; they returned 120 persons as having been injured—statistics not concurring with those of several former and not distant years; but it is curious to find that while light carts are the most guilty class of vehicles, fire-engines, which dash along with a far more furious velocity, are the least"
It is asserted in the report that "no more difficult task can be imagined than that of persuading the public to take care of itself."
From New Facts Upon All Subjects by the Author of "Enquire Within", approx 1872.
Back to contents
The Victorian Policeman