Describe Law and Order in the late 19th Century Essay

In the 19th century, towns grew rapidly as more people moved to them. This is because for the first time, places like London, Liverpool, and Manchester became big industrial cities.

There was lots of unemployment in East London, because many unskilled people moved from the countryside to the city. They lacked the skills to get a decent job, which resulted in many people turning to crime; such as pick- pocketing and shoplifting. The only help for poor people was provided by workhouses where conditions were very tough. As lower class women had no education and skills to find a job, many turned to prostitution as the only way to survive.

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There was very little hygiene. Sewage ran through the streets, and cesspits often overflowed and infected the drinking water. As a result of the poor hygiene and overcrowding, diseases like TB and cholera killed many people every year. Because of the poor living conditions in East London, many people drank heavily as the only way to escape their hard depressing lives. The streets of Whitechapel were like a maze, they were overcrowded, poorly lit, and very difficult to get lost in. Also, the pollution from factories filled the streets. Sometimes the smog got so bad; you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. This made police work very difficult in Whitechapel.

The police started in 1829, but in 1885 the Metropolitan police had 13,319 men, whilst the population of London was over 5million. The police used the “baton charge” to deal with large crowds. They would attack the people with their truncheons so deaths were common. This gained the police a violent reputation, so they were unpopular with the public. A big problem with the police was drunkenness; one policeman was sacked after only 4 hours for being drunk whilst on duty.

This meant that policemen couldn’t concentrate on tackling crime. They also had to work long shifts- sometimes 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. This would have led to them doing a poor job. They did not get much training, and only concentrated on dealing with public disturbances. This meant they weren’t really dealing with crime, mainly just social issues. However, the police weren’t a complete failure, as by the end of the 1800s, the streets were much more peaceful because of the regular patrols by policemen.

In 1878 the Criminal Intelligence Department (CID) was set up. This meant that there were more organised detectives. Many improvements were made to detective work by 1900. For example, in 1862, criminals were photographed for the first time to start to build up records. Also, in 1878 the public were not allowed to enter a crime scene.

Punishments used before 1960 included the death penalty, transportation, pillory and fines. At the start of the 1800s, hanging could be used for small crimes such as theft, and was public until 1868. However, around 1830, it started being used for just serious crimes like murder. Many prisoners were fined for their crime, often as well as another punishment. Although, this was not in common use, as most people were very poor and would have been unable to pay.

The stocks were set up in a public place were they could be whipped and have things thrown at them. Transportation was when British convicts were transported to Australia and made to do work like building. The death rates were one in three. This punishment was used for crimes like robbery and theft, and the ages ranged from nine to eighty years old. In prison, the conditions were horrible, and disease was common. Prisoners were made to do hard, boring work, in total silence in order to break their will and self-respect. Punishments had changed by the late 19th century as there was no more transportation or pillory, and the general conditions of prisons had been improved.

In conclusion, there was a lot of improvement by 1900. The streets were much more peaceful due to regular patrols by the Metropolitan police force, and also because the CID was set up to reduce crime. Punishments had also been improved so they were less inhumane.

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