In 1811 there had been a brutal multiple murder in the east end of London, which brought about a debate about policing. Until then the law had been enforced by unpaid constables and watchmen appointed by each parish. London began to be seen as the haunt of violent, unpunished criminals, which was bad for trade.
Crimes were reported in lurid detail in the popular press. They regaled readers with detailed accounts of crime scenes, and often included illustrations. Clearly there was a public thirst for the kind of melodrama and sensationalism delivered by these stories.