Originally published in the Manchester Guardian on 24 January 1920: A crime wave is reported to be sweeping over the country at the present time
London, Friday night
Much perturbation appears to have been caused among the public by the wave of crime which is reported to be sweeping over the country at the present time. Colour is lent to the statement by a series of particularly cruel and ghastly murders and violent robberies which have occurred during the last few weeks. No statistics are yet available either to prove or disprove the assertion but in quarters best able to judge the reported increase in crime is received with some scepticism.
In reply to a question to-day, Sir Nevil Macready, Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, admitted that special measures were under consideration by Scotland Yard to cope with the increase but he would not admit that the increase actually existed.
"I cannot say that there is more crime or less crime than there was last year," he said, "but up to the end of 1919 the number of men "wanted" was less than it was in 1913." He pointed out that after every great war there had been an increase in crime, but "leaving out our modern methods of publicity," he thought the position in this country to-day was, to say the least, "not worse than it was after the Crimea." What was happening now was that directly a crime occurred a great deal more than usual was made of it.
"One curious thing about these crimes," Sir Nevil continued, "is that so many of them, particularly those of violence, are done by comparatively young men. A lot of these youths between the ages of 16 and 22 had no occupation before the war. They joined the army and 'did their bit.' The war made a greater impression on their minds than it did on those of older men. When they come home they think it very fine to take up this means of livelihood. They have been accustomed and encouraged to take life lightly and you cannot expect every individual to go back to the normal state in a minute."
"We have loose in this country," he continued, "a certain number of people whose profession is crime."
When these men are caught, he hoped to see the persons responsible inflict heavy sentences. Until they were locked up for a reasonable time the situation could not improve.
It was no good paying attention to the old cry of having done their bit in the war. It gave Scotland Yard a great deal of trouble if a man committed crime and then only got a light sentence. It was a good thing to err on the side of severity in that way.
Discussing the measures to be taken for protecting the community, Sir Nevil said regulations in regard to the possession of firearms by civilians were being considered by the Home Office. He was opposed to the arming of the police. The use of dogs had been considered, but he did not think they would be as useful as some people imagined. For one thing, the police might come to place such reliance on the dogs that their mentality might become prematurely dulled.