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1845, Sydney Crime Statistics - Unfit For Publication
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The Sydney Morning Herald, Tue 18 Feb 1845 1

STATISTICS OF CRIME IN SYDNEY
I.

ABOUT this time last year, we gave some interesting statistics connected with the state of crime in the city of Sydney, chiefly for the purpose of showing, by comparison with similar returns of towns in England, that our police establishment was numerically insufficient. The evidence of MR MILES  Chief Commissioner of Police, appended to the Report from the Select Committee on the insecurity of live and property, furnishes, however, a much wider range of information on this important subject than we then possessed.

    The principal fact established by MR MILES'S tables is, that during the last four years, crime in the aggregate has been gradually on the decrease. It should be understood, however, that the tables are to be taken with some degree of qualification. “These returns,” observes MR MILES  “do not afford correct data, or there may have been a falling off in the activity of the police, which I do not admit, although an unsettled state of police (alluding to the diminution of the force and other alterations introduced by the Government,) is calculated to do much mischief in the force. I do not allow the police to interfere ruthlessly with drunken men for the sake of the fines; if they are unable to take care of themselves, or if they are a nuisance to the public, the police interfere. Thus the decrease in the number of drunkards does not prove that there is less drunkenness, although the impression on my mind is, that there is decidedly less. A great proportion of the apprehensions consist of person charged with drunkenness. Deduct that number, and the number of disorderly characters, and have a nearer approximation; though I still observe that these tables cannot afford an accurate test of increase or decrease, though valuable as comparative with other tables of the same kind.”

    It is due to MR MILES to observe, that his tables have been prepared under great disadvantages in point of clerical assistance. “I have neither office nor clerks,” he states, “for the executive department; and therefore I have great difficulty in keeping records to prepare returns for police purposes.”

    A large proportion of the crime is attributed by this officer to prisoners, or those who have been prisoners. Having gone through the committal book for the first five months of the year 1844, he finds that the total number of offenders committed by the Sydney bench within that period was 169, of which number there were— 

Offenders committed by Sydney bench, Jan-May 1844

 Bond............................. 6

 Freed........................ 100

 Free.............. ..............51

 Not described............. 12

 

..................... 106

 

........................ 63

 

 

 

..................... 169 

 

    He takes this as a fair average, and believes it to be the case that two-thirds of the offences are committed by those who have been convicts. His own returns, as leading to this conclusion, are borne out by those of the Supreme Court and Court of Quarter Sessions. From a table furnished to him by MR KECK, the superintendent of the gaol at Darlinghurst, it appears that the numbers of convictions in those Courts, in the two years ending respectively in June, 1843, and June, 1844, were as follow:—

Court convictions years ending June 1843 and June 1844  

 

 Came free or born in colony

 Free by servitude.......... 190 

 Bond.............................. 52 

1843

86

 

242

328

 

 Came free or born in colony

 Free by servitude........... 178 

 Bond................................ 36 

1844

85

 

214

299

 

    This table confirms the CHIEF COMMISSIONER in both his opinions —that crime has been on the decrease, and that not less than two-thirds of the offenders are or have been convicts. Indeed MR KECK'S figures show a still larger proportion of this class, being very nearly three-fourths. They show also a decrease in the sum total of convictions approaching to nine per cent.

    Before we proceed to notice MR MILE'S own tables, we must premise that they do not include offences committed by convicts, this class of offenders being dealt with exclusively by the Bench at Hyde Park Barracks; neither do they include summons cases.

    The first return is of the number of persons apprehended by the Sydney Police during the first five months of the respective years, 1841, 1842, 1843, and 1844. This fragment of a year was taken in order that the analysis might be brought down to the latest date at the time when MR MILES was examined.

    Here we have a decrease of crime in the year 1842 to the extent of no less that 2,235 cases, or 16½ per cent; and in 1844 of 791 cases, or nearly 28 per cent. The cases of the first five months of the year 1844 show a decrease on those of the corresponding period of 1841, to the large extent of 3,585, or nearly 64 per cent. This decrease accrues almost entirely in the second class of offences, those involving fines, which were as follow:—

Decreased Sydney crimes, 1841-1844  

 

 Crimes and offences not involving fines.........

 Offences involving fines.................................

 General Total..................................................

1841

1,055

4.566

5,621

1842

1,154

2.232

3,386

1843

1,018

1,809

2,827

1844

1,036

1,000

2,036

 

    The great diminution in the number of assaults on police, being from 421 in the first year to 64 in the fourth, may, we presume, be fairly attributed to the improved tactics introduced into the corps by the present COMMISSIONER. The decrease of drunkards appears immense, being 3,007 in the three years, or 77½ per cent; but we must remember MR MILES' remark, that he had caused a less rigorous system to be observed by the  constabulary in the apprehension of drunkards than had prevailed under his predecessors.

    The other class of offences, which includes the more weighty crimes, exhibits a total decrease in the last year as compared with the first of only 19; whilst in some of the worst crimes in the catalogue there appears to have been an increase.

Decreased Sydney, second-class crimes, 1841-1844  

 

1841

1842

1843

1844

 Assault on Police....................................

 Drunkards................................................

 Exposure of Person..............................

 Furious and negligent driving..............

421

3,873

112

169

4,566

143

1,967

57

65

2,232

131

1,577

43

58

1,809

64

866

21

49

1,000

 

    The remainder of MR MILES’ Returns we shall examine hereafter.

Sydney major crimes 1841 and 1844  

 

 Common Assaults..............

 Burglary and Robbery......

 Coining or Uttering...........

 Embezzlement....................

1841

     141

       29

         1

         8

1844

     182

     110

       15

       21

 

 Forgery...........................

 Murder............................

 Thefts and Larcenies....

 Wilful damage...............

1841

        6

        4

   242

      18

1844

      10

        6

   249

      24

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Sydney Morning Herald, Thu 20 Feb 1845 2

STATISTICS OF CRIME IN SYDNEY
II.

MR MILES, the Chief Commissioner of Police, took charge on the 1st of September, 1841. The Returns (five in number) submitted by him to the Select Committee on the security of life and property, and printed in the appendix to their Report, embrace the whole of the three years 1841 to 1843, and the first five months of the year 1844. For the reason stated in our former article, Return No. 1 is confined to the first five months of each of the four years. This paper we have already examined. Nos 2 to 4 give the number of ‘Free persons taken into custody by the Sydney Police’ in each month, specifying the crimes under twenty-six heads, and also the number of persons discharge by the Magistrates, of those convicted or held to bail, and of those committed for trial.

    As the Return for the year 1844 extends over five months only, its results cannot be compared with those of the three whole years preceding, unless by way of estimate.

    We must again remind the reader, that these tables include neither offences committed by convicts, nor summons cases.

Sydney male/female apprehensions 1841-1843 

 

Male

Female

Total

 Year 1841.......................................

 Year 1842.......................................

 Year 1843.......................................

 Total in 3 years..............................

3,964

5,378

4,325

18,667

2,345

1,815

1,556

5,716

11,309

7,193

5,881

24,383 

 

    The total numbers of persons taken into custody during the three complete years, were as follows:—

    The proportion of females to males in this summary is 1 to 3⋅26; the proportion in the population, at the last census, was 1 to 1.34. The decrease of 1843 upon the apprehensions in 1841, was, males 51¾ per cent; females, 33¾ per cent. The total decrease in the two years was no less than 3428, or nearly 50 per cent.

    Of the persons so apprehended, the numbers discharged by the magistrates were:—

Sydney male/female discharges 1841-1843 

 

Male

Female

Total

 Year 1841.......................................

 Year 1842.......................................

 Year 1843.......................................

 Total in 3 years..............................

1,277

1,215

1,036

3,528

2,345

1,815

1,556

1,176

1,667

1,613

1,424

4,704

 

    The proportion of the numbers discharged to the numbers taken into custody, in the whole three years, was—males 1 to 5⋅3; females, 1 to 4⋅9. the proportion of the total discharges to the total apprehensions in each year was:– 

Proportion in custody against discharged 1841-1843 

 In 1841............................................

 In 1842............................................

 In 1843............................................

1 to 6.8

1 to 4.5

1 to 4.1

 

    From this decreasing proportion of apprehensions to discharges, it would appear that the police had become more careful for the liberty of the subject, in not taking persons into custody without sufficient grounds.

    The numbers not discharged were:—

Sydney cases not discharged 1841-1843   

 

1841

1842

1843

 Convicted or held to bail........

 Committed for trial..................

 Total dealt with........................

9,275

367

9,642

5,106

474

5,580

4,049

408

4,457

 

    The cases dealt with in 1842 were less than those of 1841 by 4062, or 42 per cent; those of 1843 were less than those of 1842 by 1123 or 20 per cent, and less than those of 1841 by 5185, or 53¾ per cent.

    These aggregates do certainly show a very large decrease in the sum total of crime; but we cannot arrive at a safe conclusion on this important question in the moral and social character of our city population, unless we classify the offences dealt with. For this purpose, we need not follow the minute classification of the CHIEF COMMISSIONER, but may generalise; the offences under four divisions — those against the person; those against property; drunkenness; and miscellaneous. And first as to the cases of conviction or bail before the Magistrates. In this class we include as offences against the person, common assaults, assaults on the police, exposure, and threatening language; as offences against property, burglary, robbery, thefts and larcenies, receiving stolen property, fraud, wilful damage, coining or uttering, embezzlement, and forgery; and as miscellaneous, runaway or idle apprentices, breach of hired servants’ Act, disorderly prostitutes, disorderly characters, rogues and vagabonds, gamblers, furious and negligent driving, and prevarication. These were, then, as follow:—

 Sydney, convicted or held to bail by the Magistrates 1841-1843 

 

1841

1842

1843

 Offences against the person.......................

 Offences against property..........................

 Drunkenness.................................................

 Miscellaneous..............................................

 Total...............................................................

881

48

7,359

987

9,275

462

35

3,858

751

5,106

482

58

2,970

539

4,049

 

    It thus appears that in this class of cases offences against the person had diminished in the two years by 399, or 45¼ per cent; drunkenness by 4,389 cases, or 59½ per cent; miscellaneous offences by 448, or 45½ per cent; whilst offences against property had increased by 10, or nearly 21 per cent, in two years.

    We now proceed to the second class of cases dealt with—those committed for trial before the Supreme Court or Court of Quarter Sessions. These comprise only the two main divisions of crime—offences against the person, and offences against property; the former including murder, rape, sodomy, and assaults; and the latter, burglary, robbery, horse and cattle stealing, thefts and larcenies, embezzlements, receiving stolen property, fraud, wilful damage, coining or uttering, and forgery.

Committed for Trial.

     Here we have, in both divisions of crime, an increase in 1842 as compared with 1841; a decrease in 1843 as compared with 1842; and an increase in 1843 as compared with 1841.

 Sydney cases committed for trial 1841-1843

 

1841

1842

1843

 Offences against the person..................

 Offences against property.....................

 Total..........................................................

34

333

367

50

424

474

42

366

408

 

    These, however, are but glimpses at the statistics of colonial crime; even with regard to Sydney, they are acknowledged my MR MILES himself to be mere approximations to the truth. It is not creditable to the Government that the public should be so imperfectly informed on a subject so momentous; and we hope the matter will be earnestly taken up during the ensuing session of the Legislative Council. Returns should be called for of all criminal cases disposed of by the several Courts throughout the colony; and the tables should be so framed as to facilitate comparison with similar results in Great Britain.

 


1  The Sydney Morning Herald, Tue 18 Feb 1845, p.2. Emphasis added.

2  The Sydney Morning Herald, Thu 20 Feb 1845, p. 2. Emphasis added.