Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/417

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IS CRIME INCREASING?

The police every year furnish a return of the number of the criminal classes. A comparison of the numbers given in these returns affords what seems to be irresistible testimony of an immense improvement. Since the year 1867-'68 the decrease in their number has been practically continuous. Is it conceivable that, while the criminal classes have diminished in this manner, crime has increased?

The direct testimony of the police themselves may be cited. The commissioner of police of the metropolis adduces facts and figures from which it "appears that there was greater security for person and property in the metropolis during 1890 than in any previous year included in the statistical returns"; and this, notwithstanding the increasing growth of the city at the rate of a million a decade, makes it continually more difficult for the police to deal with crime. The chief constable of Liverpool says that "never since the first publication of returns of crime in Liverpool (i. e., since 1857) have the statistics disclosed so small an amount of crime or so large a success in making criminals amenable to justice as those for the year ended the 29th of September, 1891." The report for 1892 is to the same effect, except that crimes of violence had slightly increased.

Mr. Grosvenor, of the Home Office, in a paper on The Abatement of Crime, read to the Statistical Society in 1890, spoke of the abatement having taken place in nearly all classes of crime during the last twenty years; of the "reduction in the number of known thieves and other suspected persons at large, as well as of houses of bad character which they frequent," and of the extraordinary diminution in the number of receivers of stolen goods. Adding to this the fact of the great increase in the population of the country, "we must admit," he says, "that the many agencies enlisted for the purpose of diminishing the number of criminals have been most successfully applied, and the result can not fail to afford the utmost satisfaction and encouragement to all who are anxious for the improved moral and physical advancement of our nation."

Before considering the figures that measure the fluctuation in the actual crimes, Sir Edmund Du Cane tries to define what is meant by the word crime as used in the discussion. One studying the tables with a view to ascertaining the fluctuations in crime, looking merely at the total number at the foot of them, would probably conclude that the total volume of crime has increased very materially, for the tables show apparently a very considerable increase; "but if we look a little more closely at these totals of which the figures are made up, we see that a very large proportion of these offenses are not 'crimes' at all, as the word is ordinarily understood. For instance, offenses against the Education