Daily Archives: March 7, 2008

Item of the Day: Police of the Metropolis (1797)

See previous post from this volume here.

Full title:

A Treatise on the Police of the Metropolis; Containing a Detail of the Various Crimes and Misdemeanors By Which Public and Private Property and Security are, at present, injured and endangered: and Suggesting Remedies for their Prevention.  The Fourth Edition, Revised and Enlarged.  By a Magistrat, Acting for the Counties of Middlesex, Surry, Kent, and Essex.–For the City and Liberty of Westminster–and for the Liberty of the Tower of London.  London:  Printed for H. Fry, Finsbury-Place, For C. Dilly, Poultry. MDCCXCVII.

[Beginning from page 98]:

Night-Coaches also promote, in an eminent degree, the perpetuation of burglaries and other felonies: Bribed by a high reward, many hackney-coachmen eagerly enter into the pay of nocturnal depredators, and wait in the neighbourhood until the robbery be completed, and then draw up, at the moment the watchmen are going their rounds, or off their stands, for the purpose of conveying the plunder to the house of the Receiver, who is generally waiting the issue of the enterprise.

It being certain that a vast deal of mischief is done which could not be effected, were it not for the assistance which night-coaches afford to Thieves of every description, it would seem, upon the whole, advantageous to the Public, that they should not be permitted to take fares after twelve o’clock at night; or, if this is impracticable, that the coach-hire for night service should be advanced, on condition that all coachmen going upon the stands after twelve o’clock, should be licensed by the Magistrates of the division.  By this means the night coachmen, by being more select, would not be so open to improper influence; and they might even become useful to Public Justice in giving informations, and also in detecting Burglars and other Thieves.

Watchmen and Patroles, instead of being, as now, comparatively of little use, from their age, infirmity, inability, inattention, or corrupt practices, might, almost at the present expense, by a proper selection, and a more correct mode of discipline, by means of superintendents appointed by the Magistrates of each ditrict to regulate their conduct, and keep them to their duty, be rendered of great utility in preventing Crimes, and in detecting Offenders. 

At present the System of the nightly watch is without energy, disjointed, and governed by almost as many Acts of Parliament, as there are Parishes, Hamlets, Liberties, and Precincts within the Bills of Mortality; and where the payment is as various, running from 8-1/2 d. up to 2 s. a night.


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Filed under 1790's, Crime and punishment, England, Posted by Matthew Williams, Reform