Less crime in the Thirties

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From Mrs Pat O'Connor

Sir: I write in reply to the question as to why was there not more crime when the working class was deeply deprived in the Thirties (letter, 13 July)? In the distant past, I grew up in a "village" within a city. Times were hard, jobs were scarce, unemployment acute and poverty widespread. There was violence, but the strange thing was you could walk the streets without fear. Of course, there were no drugs.

One reason why people did not commit as much crime in the Thirties could be that the police were a suppressive force that interfered even in working- class leisure activities. In those days, gambling of any kind was an offence. Bookies, punters pitch-and-toss schools, boys playing cards could all be fined. You could even be booked for kicking a ball in the street. Also, many people had nothing worth stealing. We lived in a "community" and criminals could be identified (for example, gangs). There have been gangs in British society as far back as the 1880s.

In the past, you always had hope that industrialisation would bring benefits in future years. In the Sixties and Seventies, many of these communities were destroyed. There has been the erosion of the family, job, Church, and especially the community. People have become increasingly dependent upon centralised authorities and agencies in all areas of life.

A high percentage of crime today is property-based and originates largely from the values and pressure of a property-based society. The job market is diminishing and some of the younger generation are losing hope of ever finding employment. They have become alienated, and there is apathy and a loss of identification. Also we have serious drug problems.

Lord Scarman, commenting in July 1992, made many recommendations on Brixton, and he reported that a lot of good work has done by the police to implement them. However, he was not at all satisfied with what has been done to relieve the social conditions of the inner cities.

As we approach the millennium, what kind of message are we sending to the younger generation? "No future" seems to sum up the situation for many of them.

Pat O'Connor


14 July