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Night RaidersBurglary and the Making of Modern Urban Life in London, 1860-1968$
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Eloise Moss

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198840381

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198840381.001.0001

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Defying the Burglar in Post-War London

Defying the Burglar in Post-War London

(p.158) 7 Defying the Burglar in Post-War London
Night Raiders

Eloise Moss

Oxford University Press

Burglary in London during the decades after the Second World War continued to emblematize the fears, preoccupations, and experiences of ‘home’ of modern urbanites. Burglars’ prevalence was inextricable from the city’s national and international reputation, a reality that posed a stark criminal contrast to the refrain of Britons’ ‘never having it so good’, as Prime Minister Harold MacMillan declared in 1957. Violence, especially the spiralling rates of sexual violence that tore apart households attempting to recover from the war, created a pronounced association between burglary, rape, and on occasion, murder. Chapter 7 reveals the attempts of police officers and criminal psychologists to rationalize the actions of perpetrators in relation to their childhoods, relationships, and family circumstances, embodied in a series of violent burglaries committed during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Yet officials’ observations largely effaced the broader reality of widespread forms of poverty and precarious employment that also fostered crime. The potential for burglars to once more imperil residents’ sense of security had bigger implications for the city’s resurgent economy, damaging the attractiveness of the capital to visiting movie stars and celebrities (and their jewels) who were otherwise drawn to its ‘swinging’ reputation. In response, the Metropolitan Police’s ‘Beat the Burglar’ campaign, created in coordination with security and insurance companies, tried to institute an embryonic form of ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ system. Encouraging citizens to monitor one another and report disturbances, it compromised cherished notions of privacy in the efforts to collapse space and time between police and prey.

Keywords:   Second World War, reconstruction, criminal psychology, rape, violence, crime-scene photography, crime prevention, privacy, police

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