A tram at Upper Street, Islington (c.1908)
On a Monday evening in August 1874 Detective Allingham of N Division, Metropolitan Police, and PC Anst (252N) were watching the tramcars at the Angel, Islington. They must have had some information that crimes were being (or had been) committed on this popular form of public transport.
They spotted three men mingling with the passengers waiting to board; they ‘did not enter but pushed in among the crowd’. Allingham and Anst observed them ‘put their hands into the pockets of several ladies’.
The policemen followed them ‘up Pentonville’ (presumably the Pentonville Road as this runs towards King’s Cross from the Angel) and overheard them discussing their success. One, later identified as Charles Ackerman, a labourer, ‘produced a pocket-handkerchief’ and said that was all he’d managed to filch. It was slim pickings but enough for the coppers to arrest them.
The three appeared in the Clerkenwell police court and were named as Henry Gordon (a glass blower), Donald Brown (a japanner), and Ackerman; all three lived close to each other in and around Clerkenwell Green. Inspector Taylor, appearing for the police said that ‘there were frequent complaints from the Angel corner of persons having their pockets picked whilst getting in and alighting from tram cars’.
The three men were charged with picking pockets but the evidence was slender, and so the magistrate used the discretion available to him using the wide-ranging power of the Vagrancy laws rather than trying to convict them as thieves on such limited evidence. He sent them to the house of correction for a month as ‘rogues and vagabonds’.
[From The Morning Post, Wednesday, August 26, 1874]