7 OCTOBER 1882, Page 7


THE brief and business-like Report of the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis is presented to the public in such a form, that it is likely to receive less attention than it deserves. Sir E. Henderson confines himself to a bare enumera- tion of facts and statistics, making few comments, drawing no deductions, and leaving the public to form their own estimate, both of the difficulties of his task and of the efficiency with which it is performed. And yet there is probably no official in the world whose review of his year's work. presents such a startling array of eloquent figures, or who might so excusably yield to the temptation to magnify ' his office and to advertise its achievements. The ease and certainty with which order is maintained, life and pro- perty protected, and crime kept down, in London, con- stitutes one of the greatest and least appreciated triumphs of administrative skill; and it is well that we should be obliged from time to time, by Reports like Sir E. Henderson's, to realise the wise economy of force, and the exact adaptation of means to ends, by which it is accomplished. Few persons, we imagine, have any idea of the numerical weakness of the Police, in proportion to the extent of the area over which they aro set. The inhabitants of the Metropolitan District—and it must be remembered that in all Sir E. Henderson's figures, the City proper is excluded—numbered last year 4,700,000. The population of London is, therefore, nearly three times that of Greece, and considerably exceeds that of Scotland or of the Netherlands. In the 690 square miles which lie within a range of fifteen miles of Charing Cross, there are more people than are to be found in the whole of the Queen's dominions in North America. During the last thirty years, 400,000 new houses have been built, and the length of streets has increased by over 1,500 miles ; and this rate of growth is being not only maintained, but accele- rated, eighty-six miles of new streets having been constructed in 1881. London is, in fact, the most thickly peopled, the most rapidly spreading, and the richest province in the world, containing a greater mass both of accumulated wealth and of i chronic destitution than is to be found gathered in the same space elsewhere, and adding every year to both with a speed and upon a scale to which history hardly affords

any parallel. It seems difficult to believe that the• whole of this vast and constantly growing area is patrolled, its traffic regulated, its huge criminal class kept at bay, and public peace and decency preserved, by a force whose total number barely exceeds 11,000 men, and whose effective strength for ordinary police purposes does not quite reach 10,000. With a population of nearly 5,000,000, and with an aggregate of over 700,000 houses, London finds that an allowance of two policemen to every 1,000 inhabitants, and of fourteen policemen to every 1,000 houses, is sufficient to maintain the authority of the Law.

To many persons, the proportion will seem unduly small, and they will, perhaps, be inclined to attribute to it the occasional failures to track down sensational criminals, about which so much noise is made ; while the steady, silent, almost mechanical action of the Police, which has given to life and property in London a security nowhere else attainable under anything like the same conditions, passes almost without acknowledgment. There can be no doubt that it is in Detective work that

the London Police shows least efficiency, partly, perhaps, from a lack of the intelligence and special education which this kind of employment requires, but still more from the reluctance of English officials to sanction the introduction here of the systematic espionnage and the organised trickery which are habitually resorted to by the Continental detectives. It is, however, gratifying to find that even on this side the Police have made great progress since the establishment of the Criminal Investigation Department, five years ago. In 1881, for instance, there were 250 fewer felonies committed in London than in the preceding year, while the increase in the apprehensions for felonies was 710. In the pre- vention of crime, the Metropolitan Police are, unquestion- ably, the most successful in the world. Mr. Howard Vincent tells us that he has had communicated to him, in confidence, " the official statistics on the crime of all the chief cities of Europe," and he finds that although in London there is "more than double the population and ten times the number of houses of the next largest capital, the proportion of serious offences, and more especially of violence against the person, is so much smaller as to admit of no comparison, despite the presence of thousands of persons socially expatriated from their native countries." The figures supplied by Sir E. Henderson cer- tainly seem to show that the amount of serious crime in London is, all things considered, surprisingly small. The average number of felonies committed during the last five years has been about 22,000 a year, which gives a proportion of rather less than five felonies in the year to each thousand of the estimated population. The value of the property stolen or destroyed by criminals, after allowing for recoveries, has averaged during the same period about £100,000 annually. Housebreaking, however, appears to he decidedly on the increase in the Metropolis, the total number, including burglaries, having risen from 1,292 in 1880, to 1,431 in 1881. The Chief Commissioner, by way of -accounting for this unsatisfactory feature in his Report, points out that in half the cases the offence was committed in 'houses where no person had been left in charge, and that in -more than half the house was entered through doors or windows which had been carelessly left open or in-

secure. But he does not explain the exceptional ineffi- ciency of the Police both in the prevention and detec- tion of this form of crime, which is known to have special attractions for the most skilful and dangerous class of criminals ; and it is far from reassuring to discover that last year, out of more than 1,400 cases, apprehensions were snot made in more than one case out of every seven, and con- svictions were obtained only in one case out of every ten. The general result which the elaborate analysis of Sir E. Henderson suggests appears to be, that among the more serious kinds of crime, offences against property are much ',commoner in London than offences against the person.

There are other features in the social life of London upon which the Police Report throws a good deal of light. The Chief Commissioner observes, for instance, that the four- %wheeled cabs are growing fewer every year, while hansoms of improved make and omnibuses of various kinds are rapidly increasing. The horses in all public vehicles are of a higher class and are kept in better condition than used to be the case. We had hoped and believed that a similar improve- ment was beginning to be noticeable in the drivers, but it appears that the convictions both for drunkenness and for furious driving were considerably more numerous in 1881 than in the previous year. The statistics of street accidents tell the same story. The number of persons run over and killed rose from 220 in 1880 to 252 in 1881, while the -cases of maiming and injuring have steadily increased from 2,500 in 1873 to 3,400 last year. Nor has begging in the streets fallen off so rapidly as might have been expected. The number of persons annually apprehended for this and the kindred offence of possessing "no visible means of subsistence " is about 3,000, or much the same as it was seven or eight years ago. The "incorrigible rogues" have also remained stationary at or about the figure 25 for the last five years, and it seems probable that the same per- sons reappear every year in the class so labelled by the police. In the matter of drunkenness, there has been a steady decrease of apprehensions since 1878, when the highest figure ever known was reached ; and a still more remarkable falling-off in the convictions of publicans shows that the public-houses have passed into better hands, or are being more carefully con- ducted. Lastly, it should be noted that 700 persons attempted suicide in London last year, though considerably more than half were prevented from carrying out their purpose by the Police. This shows a proportion of about one in every seven thousand of the population, which is, we believe, considerably below the average in the great cities of the world.