Social exclusion fuelled looting, arson in London: Experts

August 10th, 2011 - 12:14 am ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 9 (IANS) Social exclusion and breakdown of law and order could have spurred looters to disregard social norms, a media report said, quoting experts Tuesday.

“Many of the people involved are likely to have been from low-income, high-unemployment estates, and many, if not most, do not have much of a legitimate future,” the Guardian reported, quoting criminologist and youth culture expert Professor John Pitts.

“Those things that normally constrain people are not there. Much of this was opportunism but in the middle of it there is a social question to be asked about young people with nothing to lose.”

On much of the footage of the widespread theft after the riots, looters can be seen brazenly taking the goods they want, some without taking the precaution of covering their face.

One north London resident, who wanted to be identified only as Tiel, described a conversation: “I heard two girls arguing about which store to steal from next. ‘Let’s go Boots?’ ‘No, Body Shop.’ ‘Hit Body Shop after it’s dead (meaning empty)’.”

The girl came out of Boots “nonchalantly, as if she’d done her weekly shop at 4.30 a.m.”, the Guardian said quoting Tiel.

Paul Bagguley, a sociologist at the University of Leeds, said looting was a common feature of most riots but a mixture of practical reasons could have increased its extent.

Rising unemployment was important not only as a catalyst of unrest, but because it meant more people were unoccupied on the streets leading to “biographical availability”.

Looting was seen as a less risky activity than rioting: “Looting tends to involve a wider range of people - children, women, older people - because it does not involve physical violence. Riots enable people to lose their inhibitions, give them liberty to do things they wouldn’t normally do.”

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