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The Criminal and the Community
Part II - Chapter III - Immigration and Crime

A MAJORITY of the prisoners dealt with in Glasgow police courts are not Glasgow-born; and this holds true of outlying towns. It is the stranger who is the “bad one.”

The town-bred man more readily accommodates himself to the conditions of life there. He grows up among them and his life is rooted in them. While he is yet young his steps are directed for him, and he learns to avoid dangers into which the stranger may fall. There can be no association of a man with his neighbour anywhere without some degree of conformity to a common standard of conduct. No one can outrage the social customs of his companions with impunity; and everybody is more or less influenced by the opinion of those for whom he has a regard ; so he conforms to the standard of behaviour set by the circle in which he moves and is steadied thereby. If, as is generally the case, his companions are not ill-disposed, he is likely to be a law-abiding citizen; if otherwise, he will get an impetus towards crime. In any case he is of the soil, and his growth can the more easily be watched and directed.

The man from the country finds himself living under new conditions that may rapidly make or mar him. He is away from the friends to whom he looked for guidance; he is cast on his own resources and must exercise an independent judgment; a temptation is not checked by the consideration of what the family would think; and having nothing but his own inclinations to consult, he is more likely to run loose than he would be when at home. He is not necessarily more vicious or more foolish than his town-bred brother; but he is not accustomed to the same kind of temptations, and can neither resist them as well nor yield to them as gracefully. He is therefore more likely to succumb, and more likely to suffer severely from the consequences if he is found out; for just as he is handicapped by the want of guidance, being a stranger he is not so likely to get proper assistance if he falls into trouble.

Men are attracted to the city by the hope of increase in pay and pleasure; and though in some respects the fife seems unattractive enough, they still come. The only people who are certain not to come, and perforce to stay, are those who have a home in the country and fixity of tenure there. Their sons may and do invade the towns, but when they do not succeed there they return to the land. Workmen in the country are as liable to lose their situations as townsmen; their work is hard and their hours of labour are long; they think their pleasures are few and dull compared to those men may have in the city, and they gravitate to it. They are drawn in by its glitter, and driven in by the drabness of country life; sometimes also by the clearance of men to make way for the huge pleasure-grounds that disgrace Scotland, and have resulted in the replacement of men who drew their subsistence from the soil (living a hardy life and rearing a healthy race) by deer and their keepers. When the landless man comes to town and fails to find steady work, he cannot go back to the country unless the family of which he is a member have some hold on the land. The children of crofters do go back in times of depression, returning to their father’s holding and working there; but the others swell the ranks of the unemployed and are in peril of degeneration into the loafer or criminal.

The Churches play an important part in helping those young people from the country who are recommended to them; but many never connect themselves with Churches when they come to town at first. Some make a beginning, but drop off, not so much because they dislike religion, but because they like occasionally to talk and think about something else; and in comparatively few of the Churches is the need for providing social intercourse recognised. A man filled with the missionary spirit can find numerous outlets for his energies, for there are evangelistic meetings held in all districts and on all nights, and they welcome newcomers ; there are also temperance societies engaged in the propagation of their ideas; but the majority of people who migrate to our towns are not prepared to engage in that kind of occupation in their leisure hours, and they have just to drift for the most part.

There are Benevolent Associations of the natives of one county and another which have a powerful influence for good in aiding those who come under their care, but that they do not cover the whole ground is evident from the fact that many of their compatriots are never heard of by them. That they stand by one another in an admirable way is undeniable, and their influence is so strong that for certain kinds of public appointments in Glasgow the Glasgow man has a poor chance— there being no Society of the Natives of Glasgow in that place yet.

The absence of family counsel and constraint which may lead to the degradation of the man who takes the wrong turn, may be a powerful aid to his rise if he gets on the right track. He has to think and act for himself; and his freedom from ties enables him to attend more exclusively to his business. The immigrant to the city from the country is largely represented in prison; but he is also largely represented in the town council—and the one place may be held to be as typical of the reward of the ill-doers as the other is of the well-doers.

There is another immigrant whose conduct usually receives more attention from the public, viz. the alien. In the West of Scotland foreigners are present in large numbers, having this in common, that they tend to form little colonies wherever they settle, retaining many of the habits they have brought with them, and remaining aliens in the sense that they are not absorbed in the community as they ought to be. In the collieries in various parts of the West of Scotland large numbers of aliens are employed. Their names, which in many cases are difficult either to pronounce or to spell, have been set aside by somebody or other and local names substituted; so that it is not uncommon to find a man with a familiar name who is quite unable to speak the language of the country. They keep themselves apart, and do not usually interfere with others, but some of them get into trouble through fighting among themselves. Ordinarily peaceable and tractable, they contribute a fair quota to the number of serious assaults committed, though the person assailed is usually another alien. Their ignorance of the language also makes them a source of danger to others.

When they have done some wild or criminal thing the culprits are deported, after they have served their term of imprisonment; but their isolation from the life of the district has in many cases contributed to the offences committed, since it has prevented them from acquiring the point of view of natives of this country and has caused them to follow the customs of their own land. Any proposal to prevent their settling here would come with a very bad grace from us, whose relatives are scattered all over the globe and who pride ourselves on the fact. They are healthy ; and are neither wild nor intractable, but are generally industrious and steady. In their interests and our own it is surely not advisable to permit them to continue as colonies apart, separated from us by the bar of language.

It would be no act of tyranny or hardship to insist that every alien settling here should, within twelve months of his arrival, satisfy the local authority of his fitness to speak the language sufficiently well to enable him to understand others and be understood by them. At present it is no uncommon thing to find men who have been in the country for years and are yet unable to engage in the simplest conversation in English— or Scotch if you like. In one homicide case the accused had been in the district for sixteen years, could only speak a broken dialect, and required to have the simplest statements interpreted to him. In the city this condition of things is less marked, but as a general rule aliens—apart from the professionals—who are committed to prison do not speak the language intelligibly, even though they have been some time in the country, and that for the same reason—they get on all right without it. The Italians and others who are largely engaged in trading, pick up enough to enable them to understand and be understood ; their occupation makes this a necessity ; but even among them the interpreter is far too often required. People are generally given to save themselves trouble; and to learn a language is troublesome. If they can escape the necessity they will do so, and there is no need to blame them for it. But their ignorance is a trouble and a possible danger to us, and it does not seem to be unreasonable to ask that it should cease.

There are other immigrant aliens who do speak the language and who are present in the large cities. These are the professional criminals who import their vices, and work their business, in a very systematic way. They are more remarkable for their knowledge of the law than for their ignorance of the language; and they are a very dangerous although not a very large element in the population. They have an organised system of correspondence and go from one part of the country to another, where they have connections. 'They employ skilled lawyers for their defence when they get into trouble, and within certain limits assist each other in the way of business. There are some of them capable of any atrocity, and they are all quite different from the ordinary criminal of the professional class familiar to us here. They have a certain amount of polish, and an aptitude for appreciating tho standpoint of others sufficiently well to get on their blind side. As for moral sense as we understand it, it does not seem to exist in them.

Crime is their business and they place business first. When they are convicted they are deported, but their resources and organisation enable them to escape conviction very often. They require to be dealt with in a much more drastic way than the law at present permits; for they are not only a danger because of their depredations, but their presence and conduct incite our own undesirables to do things they would not otherwise attempt. As the law stands the onus of proving their undesirability rests on the police, and it is very difficult to get positive evidence. If they were required, on the initiative of the police, to prove to the satisfaction of a court that they were earning an honest living, they would find it impossible to do so. It may be objected that this is like assuming a man to be guilty till he proves his innocence, which is contrary to practice and a bad principle on which to act. As a matter of fact, it is acted upon with our native thieves, once they have been convicted; they may be charged with being found in possession of property and required to account for having it or go to prison; and they can be summarily tried.

In respect that a man is an alien he might reasonably be required to show that he is not living off the proceeds of crime, as a condition of his being allowed to remain in the country. He may be refused permission to land if his character is known ; but these people know how to get past the immigration authority. Why they should then be free to transgress until they trip and are caught it is difficult to see. If an alien seeks citizenship here he must satisfy the authorities that he has lived, for at least five years in the country and during that period has been a reputable citizen. The onus of proof is on him, and it is not assumed that because he has never been convicted he should be naturalised. The examination to which he voluntarily submits in order that he may become a British subject he need not undergo if all he wants is the protection of our laws while he is living by breaking them. I suggest that just as some aliens have to submit to examination before being allowed to land, those who have given the authorities occasion to suspect that they are living by illegal means should be cited to appear before and satisfy a court that their conduct is such as to justify their being permitted to remain in the country; and failing their appearance, or their being able to do so, that they should be arrested and deported.

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