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Oxford University sociologists have examined the causes of the London riot of 2011 and find that tensions between the police and the community in the areas where the rioters lived were a significant factor.

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Using anonymised data from the Metropolitan Police, they mapped the home addresses of more than 1,600 people charged with rioting, linking them with surveys of public attitudes towards the police carried out in different boroughs before the riots. The researchers show that rioters were more likely to come from boroughs in which local people had said they perceived a lack of respect from the police. The findings are published by the Oxford University Press journal, Social Forces.

Thousands rioted in London in August 2011, with the police losing control of parts of the city for four days. More than 3,000 people were subsequently arrested. Unlike many recent riots in the United States and Western Europe, the London riot was not focused on ethnic grievances, the paper points out.

The study was conducted by Juta Kawalerowicz and Associate Professor Michael Biggs from Oxford University’s Department of Sociology. They mapped the home addresses of the rioters on to 25,000 neighbourhoods (as defined by the 2011 Census) across Greater London. The Census provides information on the social and economic characteristics about each neighbourhood. The rioters’ addresses were also matched with surveys from each borough carried out with the public by the Metropolitan Police in a six-month period before the riot (January to June 2011). One question asks: 'How well do you think the Metropolitan Police treat people with respect?' Possible answers ranged from 'not at all well' to 'very well' (scoring on a scale from 1 to 7). Rioters were more likely to come from boroughs with lower scores on this question after taking into account other factors such as poverty and ethnicity. The research shows a link between rioters and the boroughs across Greater London where surveys showed tensions with the police, not just in Haringey where the riot began.

Read more on the University website (opens new window)

Media coverage

The Telegraph (opens new window)

BBC News (at 14:50 minutes)