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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Spatial Demography of the Recent London Riots

The riots in London in early August erupted very suddenly in a "flash mob" style, and there has been almost endless discussion about the causes (skim for many of these stories). Last week, two reporters for the Financial Times (FT) of London published their quantitative analysis of the addresses of those people who were arrested. The findings show that there were clear spatial patterns reflecting the demography of London.

More than a third of suspects charged with offences related to the riots in London last month live in the poorest fifth of the city’s areas, research by the Financial Times has found.
The analysis, based on unpublished court papers detailing the addresses and charges against more than 300 suspects, appears to confirm a strong link between rioting and deprivation.
Overall, two-thirds of all suspects live in neighbourhoods with below-average income, and only 3 per cent hail from the wealthiest 20 per cent of areas.
In total, 1,354 suspects have now been charged in the capital. The FT’s research shows that when London’s neighbourhoods are clustered into 10 groups on the basis of their average income, there are 11 additional riot suspects for every step down in the deprivation ranking.
The story includes an interactive map showing the neighborhoods from which disproportionate shares of the rioters came. If you are at all familiar with London (or even if you aren't), you will want to take a look at this.

What was going on in these places that laid the kindling that was eventually ignited? A lot of reasons have been put forth, but the FT reporters brought this point to the table:
However, young men from the area told the FT that if any single motivation to riot could be isolated, it was existing methods of police control – particularly the practice of stop-and-search, in which officers search people regardless of whether or not they have grounds for suspicion.
Black people in the borough of Southwark experience one of the highest rates of stop-and-search in inner London, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
People will be sorting this out for a long time, I suspect.

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