Green’s Dictionary of Slang

beat n.1

[SE beat the bounds; note a police beat is SE]

1. (orig. UK Und.) a street or streets as walked by a prostitute.

[UK]G.A. Stevens Adventures of a Specialist I 211: I was drove from street to street by women of my own profession, who swore I should not come in their beats until I had paid my ‘footing’ [F&H].
[UK]‘A Rum-Un to Look At’ in Libertine’s Songster in Spedding & Watt (eds) I 136: She knows how to behave, / Though she’s out on the pave / [...] / Her valk and her beat, / Is up Coventry-street.
[UK] ‘Ax My A-se’ in Sparkling Songster 45: I sports my togs in Regent-street, / A pretty tidy beat I’ve got.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 6/1: The ‘guns’, in different ‘mobs,’ set out to ‘graft the kirks,’ one ‘mob’ working the old church at the foot of Kingate, and Hutchinson’s ‘mob’ taking Park street [...] for their ‘beat’. [Ibid.] 83/2: It was market day, and all the ‘shakes’ in the town were out on their ‘beat’.
[UK]S. Horler London’s Und. 55–6: The latter was a woman of the town plying her trade, but when she saw this child of fifteen she left her ‘beat’ and took her into a restaurant.
[UK]V. Davis Phenomena in Crime 106: A [...] gangster strong enough to oppose the encroachment on her ‘beat’.
[Aus]K. Tennant Joyful Condemned 47: What does she do? Slugs a guy like a cro on a beat.
[US]B. Rodgers Queens’ Vernacular 111: While starting on the beat [game, turf, walk] the inexperienced, up-and-coming choirboys, cowboys [...] wait to be approached.
[Aus]D. Ireland Glass Canoe (1982) 42: Righto you two molls, I’d say. Stop it or I’ll hang one on you. And to the one out of her beat, Get up your own territory.
[UK]J. McClure Spike Island (1981) 319: They just can’t be bothered to go to Family Planning, which is on their beat anyway.
[UK]V. Headley Yardie 57: Keeping the string of girls who worked the beat for him happy.

2. (orig. UK Und.) one’s own area of activity, operation.

[UK]G. Smeeton Doings in London 124: Charley had a deal of money, and so he ought, for he had the best beat in London.
[UK]Dickens ‘The Streets – Day’ in Slater Dickens’ Journalism I (1994) 54: The costermongers repaired to their ordinary ‘beats’ in the suburbs.
[UK]Sinks of London Laid Open 44: [of a beggar] His beat, as he called it, was between the foot of Ludgate Hill and Blackfriars Bridge.
[US]N.Y. Times July n.p.: The Dead Rabbits are sensitive on points of honour, we are assured, and wouldn’t allow a thief to live on their beat, much less be a member of their club.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor III 191/1: We interfere with one another’s beats sometimes, for we have no arrangement with each other, only we don’t pitch near the others.
[US]J.D. McCabe Secrets of the Great City 369: The members of the fraternity are well known to each other, and they arrange their scenes of operations, or ‘beats,’ with great care. No one will intrude upon the ‘beat’ of another, for ‘there is honor even among thieves’.
[US]‘Mark Twain’ Roughing It 70: No matter [...] whether his [i.e. a pony-rider] ‘beat’ was a level straight road or a crazy trail over mountain crags.
[UK]‘Walter’ My Secret Life (1966) IV 806: I was out of my beat and did not know a house.
[US]J. Flynt Tramping with Tramps 279: I’ve been on this beat so long and have watched my chances so carefully that I know now just where to go when hungry.
[US]N.Y. Times 27 Jan. Sun. Mag. 4: Thus, while the city was not laid out into ‘beats,’ the plans of each did not conflict with the routes of the others.
[US]J. Lait ‘If a Party Meet a Party’ in Beef, Iron and Wine (1917) 98: If I ever ketch you annoyin’ this here young lady again or mashin’ on my beat I’ll bust your nut and I’ll run you in.
[US]Dos Passos Manhattan Transfer 208: Aint this kind of out of your beat?
[US]J. Lait Put on the Spot 3: Carney, the first on the scene, with rights of priority as well as assignment, for this was on his beat.
[US]W.R. Burnett Asphalt Jungle in Four Novels (1984) 157: Little off your beat, ain’t you, buster?
[US]W. Brown Monkey On My Back (1954) 164: His ‘beat’ covered about six blocks.
[US]C. Himes Cotton Comes to Harlem (1967) 19: I know what you’re up against here in Harlem. I know your beat.
[US]Hall & Adelman Gentleman of Leisure 114: I’d rather take the whole beat and let Silky take care of it.
[US]R. Campbell In La-La Land We Trust (1999) 73: Eddie Deane, a reporter who worked the crime beat.
[UK]Indep. on Sun. Rev. 5 Dec. 7: When he went on he passed his beat on to my brother.
[UK]K. Waterhouse Soho 156: James recited: ‘Coach, French, Pillars of Hercules, Blue Posts, Three Greyhounds, Admiral Duncan, Wellington Arms. [...] My usual beat.’.

3. (UK Und.) an area in which a pickpocket works.

[US]N.Y. Times Sun. Mag. 27 Jan. 4: Thus, while the city was not laid out into beats, the plans of each did not conflict with the routes of the others.

4. (UK Und.) the area patrolled by a watchman.

[UK]G. Kent Modern Flash Dict. 5: Beat – a watchman’s walk.

5. (US prison) that area in which a criminal gang operates, thanks to bribing a local politician/police department.

[US]N.Y. Times 27 Jan. Sun. Mag. 4: [of thieves] At these meetings they decided on the section of the city to be covered by each on the following day, or on trips to suburbs like Newark or Montclair. Thus, while the city was not laid out into ‘beats,’ the plans of each did not conflict with the routes of the others.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 24/2: Beat, n. 1. The area in which criminals operate, especially when enjoying eminent domain there, either through police protection or by the right of might.
[US]Ragen & Finston World’s Toughest Prison 790: beat – A neighborhood or district controlled by a politician, upon which a criminal or criminal gang is supposed to have a monopoly.

6. an area where drugs are sold on the street.

[US]E. Hoffman Price ‘Revolt of the Damned’ in Double-Action Gang June [Internet] Since no junk runner had been working the beat, the narcotic snoopers would not be watching day and night.

7. (Aus.) the area patrolled by a sheep or cattle musterer.

[Aus]Baker Popular Dict. Aus. Sl. 9: Beat, the area patrolled by a sheep or cattle musterer.

In phrases

bash the beat (v.) (also do the beat)

(Aus. gay) to frequent an area in search of a sexual partner.

[US]B. Rodgers Queens’ Vernacular 56: to search for sex [...] bash [do] the beat (Aus gay sl, ’70).
[Aus]G. Seal Lingo 116: To do the beat is to cruise an area in search of sexual partners, also called a trade.
off one’s beat (also off the beat)

(mainly Aus.) drifting away from the subject in hand, out of one’s usual routine.

[Aus]Stephens & O’Brien Materials for a Dict. of Aus. Sl. [unpub. ms.] 12: BEAT: off his, or our slang out of his regular path: out of his latitude: away from his usual haunts, habits or likings.
[US]A.H. Lewis Confessions of a Detective 27: I won’t say there’s anything in the theory, because it’s altogether off my mental beat.
[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘The Play’ in Bulletin (Sydney) 16 July 47/1: I’m off me beat. But when a bloke’s in love / ’Is thorts turn ’er way, like a ’omin’ dove.
[Aus](con. WWI) A.G. Pretty Gloss. of Sl. [...] in the A.I.F. 1921–1924 (rev. t/s) n.p.: beat – off the. On the wrong track, getting away from the point.

SE in slang uses

In compounds