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Recreational Rioting and Looting - A Local Reaction

Wednesday 10 August 2011, 11:22
By John Baxter

As we watch appalled as first London and then other cities are subjected to outbreaks of arson, violent looting and theft on an unprecedented scale we wonder what is happening and how we should deal with it. As I wrote this my wife came in with a terrifying story of how last night the daughter of a friend of hers was in a restaurant in Notting Hill when a group of extremely young boys smashed the window, broke in and threatening everyone with baseball bats robbed them all of their money, cards and phones and snatched jewellery off their necks.

This is a personal reaction hoping nothing so vile could happen here, so please respond with a comment.

Of the comments I have heard up to now on TV about what should be done, "bring in the army", "water canon", "more robust policing", "Rubber Bullets". Dianne Abbot MP made good sense in calling for the imposition of curfews in vulnerable areas.

The perpetrators of this criminal violence theft and thuggery are overwhelmingly young men and boys encouraged by some young women and girls. The young men wear hoods, masks and balaclavas to make themselves hard to detect by CCTV, and they communicate via mobile phones. Their motivation is copycat "recreational vandalism". They do it because they think the new technology they have gives them the ability to rapidly swarm into an area and indulge in exciting arson and looting, distract the police with fires, melt away and get away with it. These are the elements to target. Here are some suggestions.

  1. It should become an offence carrying a heavy fine to walk in the street at night after 7pm with a covered head or face and it should become the right of the police to confiscate the mobile phone on the spot of anyone caught doing that or of the phone of a woman accompanying a man with a covered head.
  2. All police should be equipped with video cameras for use when on duty on the street to facilitate the identification and record the behaviour of suspects.
  3. In the present situation the imposition of clearly defined area curfews seems like the best way to use limited resources to stop the outbreak of more attacks.
  4. Rubber bullets and tasers. It would make sense to use these in situations where a gang suddenly assembles and sets out to break a curfew. The police should not be liable for Injuries sustained by rioters who break a curfew. These are not political protests but criminal life threatening acts of theft and arson.

What of water canon? Usually these are used against political demos where the demonstrators seek to hold their ground. In these twitter led raids on shops and pubs the rioters seek to avoid confrontation or by setting buildings on fire to tie the police up. I think water cannon would not be much use against them.

The Army. Only to be used (with tasers and rubber bullets) if the above approaches are not enough. They are busy enough fighting in Afghanistan as it is.

Policing by Consent. In conditions like this where life and property have been put at risk on an unprecedented scale outside war, those who commit these crimes need to fear the consequences of their actions even before they are brought to see the suffering and misery they bring to their victims and to the society whose values they have betrayed.

If the above actions require new Laws, Parliament should be recalled immediately and a State of Emergency declared. We cannot let this drag on – or we can certainly forget the Olympics. The country has a huge debt and deficit and the world is teetering on the edge of global recession.

Deeper causes behind this? Oh yes there certainly are but they cannot be addressed today while London is burning.

And how are those caught to be treated? The justice and corrections system are about to be overloaded and special measures will be needed. First offenders should not be turned into life-long criminals. These few days will cost the country dear.

Add your comments.

John Baxter


Posts: 1
Recreational Rioting and Looting - A Local Reaction
Reply #1 on : Wed August 10, 2011, 12:48:38
I guess alot of people would agree with all of your comments, me included, but you are talking common sense, and this government seems very short of that at this critical moment. i.e. water cannons will be available at 24 hours notice, just tell the looters to hang on for 24 hours, and WHY cant they be available straight away???
Nick Colbert
Posts: 1
Recreational Rioting and Looting
Reply #2 on : Thu August 11, 2011, 08:46:50
I agree with most of your comments John, I wonder if quick hard action the first night in Tottenham might not have prevented the copy cat attacks elsewhere.

We have the legislation in place, it is called the riot act, after it is read the authorities can take whatever measures are necessary to clear the street. All people on the street should then be arrested so fingerprints can be taken, all abandoned looted goods can be tested for fingerprints as can shop interiors and the guilty punished.
This is only happening because society is letting them do it. Stop them and stop them hard it is the only language that they understand.

On a lighter note I never thought I would hear the following phrase fron a person with Liberal tendencies.

"It should become an offence carrying a heavy fine to walk in the street at night after 7pm with a covered head or face."

Maybe you are turning into a Conservative John, oh and would that include a burka?
Last Edit: August 11, 2011, 08:48:22 by Nick Colbert  
Victor Meldrew
Posts: 1
Recreational rioting and looting
Reply #3 on : Thu August 11, 2011, 16:02:06
I tend to agree with the previous 2 comments, unfortunately those with what appears to be political desires, are speaking at odds with the PM. I advocate the return of a form of National Service, where they are NOT expected to join the Professional Forces. Instead they are placed into work units. In this time of drastic cuts to services great use could be made of them in doing the tasks that the Authorities cannot do due to these cuts. There are plenty of hedges and ditches along the roads and footpaths that require attention. There are many examples of these places, where everything,exept fpood, have to be earned, mostly self worth and repect for others and property. Most importantly, the removal of the PC/Race handcuffs that are restricting the police from doing their job. To finish, there seem to have been no confrontations over the shooting in Croydon of a man from Brixton by ,possibly, someone of his own ethnic group!!
Posts: 1
Looting Raids
Reply #4 on : Fri August 12, 2011, 11:42:08
Already my armchair comments have been overtaken by events as Parliament has been recalled.

My suggestions were based on an assumption that the police would continue to have - in terms of officers on the streets - limited resources. By increasing their numbers from six to sixteen thousand they have seen the rioters and looters fade away. Why? for the reason every teacher knows. It is not the severity of sanctions but the likely inevitability of getting caught that is the strongest and most immediate deterrant.

Those numbers of course are only sustainable for a few days, after that long term measures to make looting raids much more difficult will have to be taken. Here it was interesting the the PM in his statement to the Commons said as regards face masks that he was going to give the police authority to insist on the removal of face masks at their discretion. We shall see. Details no doubt will need to be worked out.

The security industry will now have a field day fitting South African style security to shop fronts. Sad, costly, but almost inevitable.

Historically penal policy has focused on punishment of the offender, deterrance of others, the protection of society and the correction/reform of the offender. Add to this the compensation of the victim and getting the offender to recognise the full consequences for others of his/her action and we have a balanced programme. Very hard and very expensive to achieve.

Our knee-jerk reaction is to imagine rough tough "robust" action and harsh detention conditions will do the trick. The evidence is they will not, for they do nothing to increase empathy for others in the offender or to provide the skills for educational failures and social inadequates - as most of them are - to become more socially integrated and employable.

Acting Commissioner Tim Godwin said the police had reason to be proud that so few died and so few were hospitalised despite the unprecedented extent of the fires, rioting and looting. That will make rebuilding communities much easier than if they had been further polarised by what many would see as brutal policing. I thought that made sense.

How to make the long term young unemployed with few skills feel anything but isolation from society and personal failure and get them into work at such a time as this is the real challenge that faces us across the country, not just in the big cities.
Last Edit: August 12, 2011, 11:46:20 by johnbaxter  

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