Sunday, January 25, 2015

Secrets of Scotland Yard: London's Metropolitan Police Service

Secrets of Scotland Yard
by Travis Simpkins

     London's Metropolitan Police Service, also known as Scotland Yard, have been at the forefront of crime fighting for nearly 200 years. Currently, the force consists of 33,000 officers policing a city which can reach a population of 15,000,000 people on a given day, around which roughly 1 million crimes are committed per year. They are, indeed, a formidable authority. Produced in 2013 for PBS, Secrets of Scotland Yard takes a look at the highlights in the long history of this elite group of detectives. The story begins in early 19th Century London, where a growing population necessitated the passing of the Metropolitan Police Act in 1829. The bobbies dressed in plain clothes during the early years, with little freedom to probe the public, for fear of uprising and revolution. Skilled detectives, previously operating in secret, were given free reign to conduct investigations after a failed attempt to assassinate Queen Victoria in 1842. These sleuths inspired 19th Century crime fiction, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's great detective Sherlock Holmes… whose real life counterpart may have been Scotland Yard detective Dick Turner. Professor Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes' nemesis, was inspired by real life criminal Adam Worth… dubbed the "Napoleon of Crime" by Scotland Yard. Adam Worth's criminal escapades culminated in a daring 1876 art heist in which he stole the portrait of the "Duchess of Devonshire" by Thomas Gainsborough. It was a crime of aesthetic passion, one of the few instances in which an art thief stole a painting to keep for his own enjoyment. In love with the portrait, Adam Worth kept the "Duchess of Devonshire" hidden under his mattress for 25 years. The CID (Criminal Investigations Department) proved necessary soon after… with the gruesome and depraved serial murders of Jack the Ripper. Terrorizing the prostitutes of Whitechapel, the killings remain unsolved but the intense investigation produced many of the detective techniques still used today. The Jack the Ripper case provided the first criminal profile and the first instance of crime scene photography. The utilization of bloodhounds became commonplace as well. The early 20th Century saw advances in the field of forensic science. Forensics were key in solving the infamous Great Train Robbery in 1963, during which a fortune (nearly $500 million in today's money) was stolen. After their escape, the thieves passed the time at their hideout by playing Monopoly… leaving fingerprints all over the board game. The founding of the Flying Squad in 1919 proved essential to modern success as well. This culminated in 2000, with the failed Millennium Diamond Heist. Organized thieves had targeted the Millennium Star Diamond, worth $750 million. Despite their daring efforts, including a bulldozer to crash the walls and a getaway speedboat, Scotland Yard nabbed their crooks thanks to the use of modern video surveillance. These are just a few of the cases and exploits featured in this worthwhile 50-minute documentary, fitfully glorifying one of the world's most elite and effective law enforcement agencies.

Scotland Yard

Sherlock Holmes

Adam Worth

The Duchess of Devonshire, by Thomas Gainsborough

The Stolen "Duchess of Devonshire"

Jack the Ripper

Mary Kelly, killed by Jack the Ripper

Jack the Ripper

Jack the Ripper letter

Jack the Ripper



The Great Train Robbery, 1963

The Millennium Diamond Heist, 2000

The Millennium Star Diamond

The Millennium Diamond Heist, 2000

The Millennium Diamond Heist, 2000

New Scotland Yard

"Secrets of Scotland Yard"