Dundee crime statistics 1898 – 1902

The following is a collection of extracts of Dundee Crime Statistics from the Dundee criminal returns of 1898 to 1902 inclusive, read, in part, by us on one of our forays in the archives. A very informative and insightful glimpse into the lives and crimes of this era, it’s also hard sometimes to see where things have changed greatly in the last century. See for yourself what the criminal element of Dundee were up to back in the day.

“Chief constables office, Dundee 31st January 1899

My lord and gentlemen,

I have the honour to present for your information the annual police and statistical returns for the year ending 31st December 1898

There were 4751 persons apprehended and 849 persons cited for crimes and offences making a total of 5600 against 5170 during the previous year being an increase of 430. Of that number 5291 persons were brought before the magistrates and 309 were discharged on account of the evidence against them being insufficient to warrant their being brought to trial.

The state of crime thus shews a slight increase. The increase is principally in the number of persons dealt with for contraventions of police acts, bye laws etc. the increase under this heading being 332 males. This may be accounted for by the climatic conditions, which were such in 1898 as to cause out door workers to have very little broken time; to the fact that trade in Dundee was in a prosperous condition; and to the circumstance that on 3rd march 1898 numerous sections of “the burgh police (Scotland) act 1892” were adopted, which considerably extended the powers and duties of the police and resulted in numerous prosecutions for minor police offences which could not previously be dealt with.

Serious crime
During the year there were no serious acts of crime omitted within the city and no sitting of the High Court of Justiciary took place.

Insane and destitute persons
In addition to the number of apprehensions before referred to, there were 42 insane and destitute persons taken charge of by, and removed at the instance of the police to lunatic asylums or the poor houses by the inspector of poor, or given up to guardians or relatives to be cared for without being brought before court. 25 of these, consisting of 11 males and 14 females were insane. 13 of them were removed to lunatic asylums, which the remaining 12 were taken charge of by the Paris council authorities. The other 17, found destitute were removed to poorhouses, while 9 were handed over to parents or relatives. These persons are not included in the criminal returns. There were 382 persons remitted to the sheriff during the year from the police court charged with various crimes and offenses against 547 in the previous year, shewing a decrease of 165. 144 of those so remitted were committed by the sheriff, till liberated in due course of law. This number is an increase of 16 on the total so committee during 1897.

261 persons were charged with wife-beating, being a decrease of 2 when compared with the previous year; of that number 245 were convicted, 3 were acquitted against 1 the charge was withdrawn, against 10 the charges were departed from, which the charges against the other 2 were undisposed of at the end of the year. Of the number convicted, 221 were tried in the police court and 28 in the sheriff court, 139 were sentenced to imprisonment, 85 were given the option of a fine, 6 were ordered to find caution for their good behaviour, while the remaining 15 were admonished.

There were 419 persons under 16 years of age brought before the magistrates, being an increase of 164 when compared with the previous year; 18 were found destitute, 160 were accused of theft and 241 of other crimes and offences. 102 of the total number were admonished, 128 were sentenced to pay small fines or to suffer short periods of imprisonment, 6 were dismissed, the charges having been found not proven, 8 were sent to the reformatories, 53 were remitted to the sheriff or reported to the procurator fiscal, 11 were remitted to other jurisdictions; 69 were dismissed, the charges against them having been departed from, and 42 were sent to industrial schools, the charges against them having been withdrawn. The increase in juvenile offenders may be accounted for by the large numbers of boys brought before the court charged with playing at football and other games to the annoyance of the lieges on the streets and other public places. The class of offence was not dealt with before the adoption of the burgh police act.

The number of prisoners who were apprehended and taken to each of the five police stations were as follows:

Central – 2679
Eastern – 413
Lochee – 424
Northern – 427
Western – 808

715 individuals have been more than once before the police court during the year. The frequent appearance of these persons before the police court largely increases the number of apprehensions chronicled in the returns, as on each re-apprehension during the year they are recorded. If the 715 persons who have been more than once before the court during the year and who are included in the above table had only been credited with one appearance each the number of persons apprehended or cited during 1898 would have been stated at 4361, instead of 5600 being 1239 less.

These offenders are for the most part habitual drunkards, and 283 of the 715 have been convicted of crimes of offences in Dundee from 20 to 170 times, as shown by the following table:

No of Convictions M     F
20 to 30                   84     58
30 to 40                   42     24
40 to 50                   17     11
50 to 60                    6      13
60 to 70                    2        3
70 to 80                    1      10
80 to 90                    1        1
100 – 110                           3
110 – 120                  1       3
120 – 130
130 – 140                           1
140 – 150
150 – 160                           1
160 – 170                            1

85 intimations of theft by housebreaking were lodged with the police during the year, shewing a decrease of 24 when compared with the previous year. With few exceptions the acts were of a trifling description.

The detective staff both by day and night as well as the district officers and constables give unoccupied furnished houses their special attention, and particularly those whose occupants have notified their absence to the police.

There were 804 intimations lodged of theft (simple) shewing a decrease of 179. 454 persons were apprehended in connection with these cases. In more than one half of the intimations, the properly stolen was considerably under 5/- value. By a portion of the burgh police act, which has been adopted, shopkeepers are prohibited from exposing goods outside their premises. This provision has been the means of causing shop door thefts to almost disappear, hence the great reduction in the number of simple thefts reported this year compared with the previous year.

The estimated value of property stolen, embezzled, or obtained by fraud during 1898 was £575. 8s, 1d, and the amount recovered was £320 16s 4d, thus leaving the estimated value of the unrecovered at £254 11s 9d.

There were 8 persons licenced as hotel keepers, 215 as publicans and 207 as grocers. 3 persons licenced to retail table beer. During the year 4 publicans were tried for breach of certificate in each case the charge being that of supplying liquor to persons in a state of intoxication, 3 of whom were convicted, and 1 acquitted.

Shebeens, there were 24 persons brought before the police court for selling excisable liquors without a certificate throughout the year, of that number 17 were convicted, 2 were acquitted. The fines and expenses imposed upon those convicted amounted to £213 9s 6d, of which only £24 1s 0d was recorded.

There were 994 strayed children brought to the several police stations during the year, and temporarily cared for by the female warders, being a decrease of 15 from the previous year

There were 99 fires during the year, to which members of the fire brigade turned out against 72 the previous year

There were 186 members of the police force of all ranks, this number includes two members of the sanitary staff, for whom the government grant is got, but excludes all other members of the sanitary staff, as also 1 inspector who do duty at the harbour. This strength of §86 gives a population of 884 to each constable, the population of the city according to the registrar general last estimate being 164,575

Unfortunately during the year 9 persons of 8 men and 1 women lost their lives drowning in the docs and river. 4 dead bodies were found in the river and 5 in the docks. During the same period 34 persons who fell into the docks or river were rescued from drowning.

5 fatal accidents occurred to workmen while engaged at the harbour and 96 accidents involving injury to the person, 43 of these being serious. In 56 of the cases the police on harbour duty, who have been trained in ambulance work dressed the wounds. 9 fires occurred at the harbour during the year, in neither of which was serious damage done.

D. Dewar
Chief Constable and Procurator-Fiscal

Dundee Crime Statistics

Crimes and offences

Number of crimes made known to the police

Class I, crimes against the person
Culpable homicide – 2
Assaults – 21
Assaults on etc officers of law – 70
Assaults by husbands on wives – 260
Culpable neglect of duty – 1
Cruel and unnatural treatment of children – 66
Incest – 1
Rape – 5
Assault with intent to ravish – 2
Indecent assault – 1
Lewd and libidinous practices – 3
Bigamy – 3
Culpable and reckless driving – 1

Class II – crimes against property with violence
Theft by housebreaking – 85
Theft by opening lockfast places – 4
Housebreaking with intend to steal – 5
Robbery and assaults with intent – 10
Sending menacing letters – 1

Class 3 – crimes against property without violence
Theft – 804
Reset – 9
Breach of trust and embezzlement – 5
Falsehood, fraud and willful imposition – 21

Class IV – malicious injuries to property
Willful fire raising – 2
Malicious mischief – 159

Class V – forgery and crimes against currency
Forgery and uttering – 1

Class VI – other crimes not included above
Perjury and subornation – 3
Indecent exposure – 11

Class VII – miscellaneous offences
Betting, gaming and lotteries – 1
Breach of the peace – 1545
Brokers (licenced) offences by – 5
Brothel keeping – 5
Cruelty to animals – 13
Drunkenness and drunk and incapable not under intoxicating liquor laws – 1511
Elementary education acts, offences against – 28
Explosives, offences in relation to – 4
Furious and reckless driving – 14
Industrial schools acts, offences against – 10
Drunk or drinking in a shebeen – 5
Disorderly conduct in licenced houses – 1
Refusing to leave a licenced house – 1
Breaches of certificate – 4
Trafficking without a licence – 19
Other contraventions – 4
Factory acts – 11
Offences against army, deserters – 53
Other offences – 1
Nave deserters – 2
Peddlers act, offences against – 1
Penal servitude and prevention of crimes act – 1
Police acts, bye-laws and regulations, offences against – 366
Poor laws, neglecting to maintain family – 1
Prostitution – 124
Reformatory school act, offences against – 1
Stage and hackney carriage regulations, offences against – 23
Vaccination act, offences against – 5
Vagrancy and trespass act
Begging – 36
Sleeping out – 4


Sentences and fines

1 day and under – 2
3 days and over 1 day – 2
7 days and over 3 days – 59
14 days and over 7 days – 100
1 month and over 14 days – 252
60 days and over one month – 160
Above 60 days – 7

5/- and under – 579
5 tp 10/- – 472
10 – 20 – 1292
20 – 40 – 399
40 – £5 – 21
Over £5 – 18

Number paid before imprisonment – 1033
Paid during – 318
Sentence undergone in default – 1427
Neither paid nor sent to prison – 3

Results of proceedings

Proceedings dropped – 309
Pledges forfeited – 621
Otherwise discharged – 75
Charge withdrawn – 101
Acquitted – 87
Sent to industrial school – 43
Sentenced to imprisonment – 582
Fine – 2781
Reformatory school – 8
Caution with or without sureties – 23
Placed under probation of first offenders act – 6
Admonished – 802

Sex and age of persons convicted
Under 12
m – 22
f – 0

12 – 16
m – 212
f – 10

16 – 21
M 506
F 161

21 – 30
M 774
F 462

30 – 40
M 654
F 412

40 – 50
M 356
F 244

50 – 60
M 145
F 120

Over 60
M 81
F 43

Sent to Dundee industrial schools
Sent to Glasgow R.C. Do.
Sent to reformatories
Sent to Perth industrial schools
Sent to Aberdeen industrial school for RC girls
Sent to Stirling industrial school
Sent to Tranent industrial school for boys
Sent to Leith industrial school

Return of strayed children (number, not actually returned to anyone)
Central – 303
Eastern – 183
Lochee – 48
Northern – 246
Western – 214
Total – 994

Fatal casualties –
Children found dead in bed
M 35
F 37

Deaths by burning m4 f5
Being crushed by turning lath – m1
Mill machinery – m2
Waggon m2
Cart falling on – m1
Crane striking – m1
Drowning m8, f1
Falling down stairs – m2 f 5
Falling from house m1 f1
Falling from ladder m1
Falling from steamer in course of construction m3
Tier of jute m4
Heap of wood m1
Being run over by railway train m4
Run over by vehicle m4

Sudden deaths m45 f39
Suicide by hanging m4 f 1
Jumping over bridge m1
Poisoning f1
Shooting m2

1900, there were 4987 persons apprehended and 734 persons cited for crimes and offences during 1899 making a total of 5721 against 5600 the previous year. Of that number, 5445 were brought before the magistrates and 276 were discharged on account of the evidence against them being insufficient to warrant their being brought to trial.

The state of crime this shews a slight increase which may be accounted for by the prosperity of trade. During the year there were three serious cases, two involving charges of murder and one of culpable homicide in which four persons were accused one of the cases of murder was that of a man accused of striking her on the head with a meat cleaver, he was tried before the High Court of Justiciary at Edinburgh and the case was found not proven. The other case of murder were a man was charged with causing his wife’s death remained undisposed of at the end of the year. In the case of culpable homicide two men were accused of assaulting a butcher, in consequence o which he died. They were tried before the sheriff and a jury and found not guilty.

People were also sentenced to penal servitude occasionally, one man for five years in 1898 – Donald Ross for assault and robbery, trial was 16th Sep 1898

For 1900

There were 6048 persons apprehended and 903 persons cited for crimes and offences during 1900, making a total of 6951 against 5721 during the previous year, being an increase of 1230. Of that number 5514 persons were brought before court, and 437 were discharged

It is difficult to account for such a large increase but as contributing to the same it may be mentioned that trade in general has been prosperous while the climatic conditions throughout the year have been favourable for outdoor work. There has been a large in as in the number of labourers attracted to the city during the year on account of converting the existing tramway lines to make them suitable for electric traction and the opening up of new tramway routes. The military camp at Barry has been more fully taken advantage of by large bodies of troops being quartered there for a considerable portion of the year, and the militia regiments have been called up for lengthened periods because of the south African war. This has resulted in a large increase of the number of deserters and absentees dealt with by the police and recorded in the returns. Another factor in connection with the increase is, in my opinion owing to the greater leniency which has of late been shewn by the magistrates to persons convicted of being drunk and incapable and to those convicted of having committed breaches of the peace and acts of disorderly conduct while in a state of intoxication. This leniency has, in my opinion, led to a considerable in case in the number of individuals who have made more than one appearance before the police court during the year, the number for 1899 being 686 and for 1900, 848.

In 1902, one serious case occurred in the city during the year. A man attempted to murder his paramour by stabbing her repeatedly all over the body which a pocket knife, and seriously assaulted another woman by stabbing her. He was tried before the high court of Justiciary, found guilty of the charges and sentenced to penal servitude for life. Daniel Hughes, trial 17th Nov 1902.”

– DD Tours operates walking tours in Dundee city, covering dark local history such as wars, battles, murders, diseases, riots, disasters and executions. Walk with us for an unforgettable storytelling experience.



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