While not suggesting that violent crimes are irrelevant, it is important to recognise that they receive disproportionate press attention. Violence was widespread in Victorian London and, arguably, our sensitivity to inter-personal violence has risen in the twentieth century as acts of violence are less and less tolerated. The late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century press made the most of the Ratcliffe Highway Murders of 1811 (see the Origins of the Met module) and the Jack the Ripper killings in East London in the autumn of 1888. But the Victorian press probably gave a better balance in its crime reporting than the modern media, often reporting assaults and less serious thefts. Moreover, those who had a purchase on public opinion, i.e. those with the vote – remember that 40 per cent of adult males were not able to vote until 1918 – had a stake in property. Those who owned property tended to live in areas where violence was less common, so many Victorians tended to comment on property crimes.
Between 1877 and 1886 burglars in London killed two police officers and five householders, 11 policemen were wounded. On 18 occasions men escaped arrest primarily because they used firearms and on 14 more occasions burglars were found to have guns on their person. The issue of arming the police received much press comment. In 1883 some constables on the more isolated beats were authorised to carry guns. In 1911 guns were used in London on 29 occasions and drawn from a police station in another 11.
A notable example of a police death that captured the public imagination came with the 'Tottenham Outrage' in 1909 when two Latvian refugees attempted a wage snatch. This bungled raid led to the perpetrators being chased by police and public for six miles across the Tottenham Marshes to the edge of the Epping Forest. 400 rounds from automatic pistols were fired killing PC Tyler and a schoolboy, wounding 27 others (including seven policemen) before the robbers turned the guns on themselves. Tyler's funeral attracted mass public support. Tyler was in the centre of a souvenir poster showing all the men in 'N' Division who had taken part in the chase of the two Latvians. This document is an extract from a report by Superintendent W. Jenkins into the circumstances of the death of PC Tyler.