For the greater part of the modern period, most policemen spent most of their time trying to make people behave themselves. Until the invention of the motor car, their target was mainly the labouring poor, but as the roads gradually filled with careless, speeding or drunken drivers, so increasing numbers of the respectable classes came to their attention. The growth of what is loosely termed victimless crime was a characteristic of the age. The forces of the law had always had a concern with order, but not until the middle decades of the nineteenth century did the ambition extend to controlling all public spaces, particularly in towns and cities. In earlier times, disorder attracted concerted attention only when it directly threatened the possessions or wellbeing of the propertied. Now order was seen as an end in itself. The educated classes had a right not to encounter immoral behaviour as they went about their business but a responsibility to rescue the less educated from the consequences of their excesses. The concept of victim was enlarged from the particular and the immediate to the general and the potential. Drunkenness, vagrancy, prostitution and gambling and, later homosexuality, drug-taking and bad driving were stigmatized for the danger they posed to civilization at large or for the harm they might do to families, innocent bystanders or the perpetrators themselves.
KeywordsPublic Order Modern Period Interwar Period Open Urban Space Summary Conviction
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