Everything I have heard and read tells me that this kind of thing used to be true in Britain.
I live in a very small street with only eight houses, but delivery vans come down here at least twice a day. Fed Ex and that other company. People have a lot of parcels delivered by not the Post Office these days. The internet brings us gifts every day.
They bash on the door a few times, then put the parcel down and walk off. One time, a delivery man hid the parcel under our doormat. I guess he thought it was more valuable-looking than usual (true- it was Lego/s). Nobody expects parcels to be stolen from doorsteps. Everywhere I’ve lived in England, that would be insane. I never minded about crime when I lived in the UK, but that was before experiencing life in a place that feels this safe. It’s wonderful.
I heard a story from my brother-in-law about Nottingham in the thirties. Apparently, in a very poor part of town and at a very poor time, as was the practice in such places in those times, a man used to come round with a big leather bag, collecting rent, in cash. This man was not liked. People went hungry to ensure that he got his cash. But it never occurred to him or to anyone that this was a stupid thing for him to do, because it was not stupid. Anyway, one day, he left his bag in the middle of the street for some reason, full of cash, unattended. A while later he came back and collected it, untouched, all the money still there. Those were the rules.
But stories like that about long-ago Nottingham are far easier to dismiss than the contrast that Alice Bachini-Smith describes from her own direct and hugely contrasting experiences. To tell me that I am wrong about 1930s Nottingham only involves saying that the story has become exaggerated over the years, as maybe it has. To tell Alice that she is wrong means telling her that she is wrong about her own experiences. It means calling her a liar, pretty much.
As to why things worked like this in most or even all of Britain in the past and still do work like this in the more law abiding parts of America, well, that is another argument. The reasons are quite complicated, I would say. (For instance, I have long believed architectural design to be part of the story.)
I recall publishing an interesting piece for the Libertarian Alliance by the historian Stephen Davies entitled Towards the Remoralisation of Society about these kinds of arguments. This was published in 1991 but since then the story in Britain has surely changed rather little and if anything has got somewhat worse. (Here and here are some more recent writings by the same author, the former being a book that you have to buy, but the latter being a blog posting that you can actually read.)