«Piecemeal, incremental, ad hoc»: ‘Beccarian’ experiments in law enforcement in late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century England
In the course of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century a series of measures were introduced into the practice of law enforcement in England which, though «piecemeal, incremental, ad hoc» were, J.M. Beattie claims, driven by a common belief in the need for more effective ways of dealing with a perceived dramatic rise in urban property crime...These included preventative measures such as improvements in street lighting and gradual recognition of the need for professional policing, measures – such as statutory rewards to informers – designed to encourage prosecutions and raise conviction rates, and state-funded transportation, which provided a punishment more appropriate to petty crime than the death penalty. Though many of these measures, diverged sharply from Beccarian principles, Beattie is right in claiming that in general terms they «anticipated some of the arguments that would be made by the reformers of the late 18th century». If this has not been noticed previously it is because scholars have focused on the history of ideas at the expense of changes in practice the resulting from thousands of individual decisions by made by ordinary people, and even by apparently powerless.