One of the favourite arguments of the 'moral panic' school of criminology is that crime was just as high in the past. Easy to refute while the generation who were there can testify, harder when they're gone.
So I'm trying to take note of sources - like 'The Road to Nab End' and 'A Ragged Schooling'. If anyone has links to anything relevant - pro or anti - I'd appreciate them.
Feom a Dalrymple interview with Ray Honeyford.
His own personal history would suggest some direct insight into the problems of the disadvantaged. His father was an unskilled laborer injured in the First World War and able to work only intermittently thereafter. His mother was the daughter of penniless Irish immigrants. His parents had 11 children, six of whom died in childhood. They lived in a small house in Manchester with no indoor lavatory (and not a single book). He was brought up in a place and in times when the next meal was not guaranteed to appear. Yet despite the poverty, theft was unheard of: everyone felt able to leave his front door unlocked.