East End News
Tuesday, November 20th, 1888.
Sir Charles Warren, who has just resigned the office of Chief Commissioner of Police said recently that, "London is the safest capital in the world for life and property." Whatever doubt may be created by the terrible occurrences in the East End - the horrible crimes which have gone undetected during the past few weeks - no one impartially studying and comparing the statistics can dispute the general accuracy of Sir Charles Warren's statement. Crime is unmistakably on the decrease, and although London draws its population from all parts of the world, and from all classes of society, it comes out better than most, if not all, provincial towns and districts. In pleasure towns the proportion of criminals to the population is one in 1,438, and in the centres of the hardware trade one in every 414, while in London it is only one in 2,019. The returns for England and Wales show a decrease of 1.4 per cent. in the total number of criminal classes at large and known to the police in 1886-7, as compared with the numbers in 1885-6. There is also a decrease in the number of houses of bad character equal to 8.1 per cent. In the total commitments to prison there is a decrease of 6,877, or 3.8 per cent. This is very satisfactory, and if the returns of the numbers of the criminal classes are examined in detail they will not be found less reassuring. Not only have the numbers of the known criminal classes decreased in ten years from 35,000 to 28,000, notwithstanding the general increase of population, but at the same time the number of juvenile and female criminals has shown a proportionate decrease. The total proportion of the criminal population at large to every 1,000 of the total population was - in the counties 1.50; in the boroughs, 1.40; and in the metropolis, 0.50. For the previous year the figures were - in the counties, 1.51; in the boroughs, 1.45; and in the metropolis, 0.49. Thus for every 100,000 of the population there were 150 criminals or suspected persons at large in the counties, 140 in the boroughs, and only 50 in London. This must be a little surprising to those people who look upon London as a sink of iniquity and a refuge for criminals. If we turn to the returns giving the number of houses of bad character, we find the same result. There has been a general diminution of such houses, the number in 1884-5 being 3,764; in 1885-6, 3,424; and in 1886-7, 3,146. For every 10,000 of the population there were in 1886-7, 0.44 of such houses in London; 2.81 in the boroughs, and 0.62 in the counties, the corresponding numbers for the preceding year being respectively 0.49, 3.06 and 0.67.
The following letter appeared in the Times on Friday:-
Sir, - With Mr. Rogers, I am appalled more "by the disorderly and depraved lives" of our neighbours than by the actual murders. The acts of a madman are not matters for horror, and his escape is not sufficient reason for wholesale condemnation of the police. A series of courts such as Miller's-court, where rooms unfit for stables are let as 4s. a week, where the cries of murder are too common to arouse notice, where vice is the staple trade and drunkenness the chief resource - this fact should arouse horror and ought to be remedied.
We may agree that elevation of character is the only radical remedy, and many will be willing to endure the sight of much suffering while Christian people rescue men and women one by one from selfishness and impurity. For my part, I believe that even order in the streets would be obtained at too great a cost if, by the adoption of one of Mr. Roger's remedies, public opinion did less to educate the self-control which is the basis of character. He that believest shall not make haste.
At the same time there is something which can be done. These houses are managed by agents; the landlords are ladies and gentlemen, and the rents ultimately reach their pockets. These landlords could enforce order, they could see that the rooms are fit for habitation, provided with locks and means of privacy, they could have a night watchman to prevent rows and the intrusion of the vicious, they could see that the tenants lived respectable lives, and they could prove themselves their friends in hours of need. You, Sir, in an article expressed the wish that the names of the owners of the houses in this criminal quarter might be published. My hope is that, as they realise that the rents are the profits of vice, they will either themselves take direct action to improve this disgraceful condition of things, or sell their property to those who will undertake its responsibility.
I am, truly yours,
SAMUEL A. BARNETT.
St. Jude’s Vicarage, Commercial-st.,
Whitechapel, E., Nov. 13.