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Croydon riots - John C. Kirk

Aug. 8th, 2011

11:33 pm - Croydon riots

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Tonight there have been riots across London, including Croydon (where I live). I cycled home at 20:00; that was before it all kicked off, but the police had put up some barricades and lots of shops had closed early. I saw one looter, with a police car parked nearby, and I've seen lots of other people walking past quite brazenly carrying TV boxes. I'm now indoors, and I'm away from the fires etc., but I'm keeping up with the news.

Here's an excerpt of my journey, recorded on my helmet cam:



Here are some key timings, along with still photos:

00:02: Police barricade across George Street:

Barricade

00:06: Sainsbury's closed.

Sainsbury's

00:40: Car blocking road, several young men getting out and standing nearby.

Queue of cars
Blocking car

01:17: Police barricade across High Street.

Barricade

02:38: Tesco closed.

Tesco

03:35: Guy in hoodie riding one bike and wheeling another, which still has price tag attached.

Looter

03:52: Door smashed in bike shop (GB Cycles).

GB Cycles

04:00: Police car parked nearby, with burglar alarm ringing in background.

Police car

05:07: Another supermarket putting down shutters.

Select supermarket

I was at school in 1991, and I remember watching news reports of the riots in Los Angeles after some policemen were filmed beating Rodney King. One of the other boys had an interesting reaction when we saw looters: "Hey, some of them are white!" I don't think it's as simple as saying that only black people care about racism; some of my white friends are very concerned about "white privilege" etc. However, I think that a lot of people (black and white) were simply using the riot as an excuse to steal whatever they could get.

There's a similar issue here, since the riots were sparked off by the police shooting a black man. However, I'm not quite clear on how the local bike shop is to blame for that. Obviously I can't be certain about people's motivations, but I see how brazen the looters are and I think that they're simply doing it because they can get away with it. I've seen some of them drop their boxes and run when challenged, presumably on the basis of "easy come, easy go".

Back in January, I wrote about contingency planning, and this type of situation demonstrates why it's important. On the "bugging in" side, I can't get to the shops, so I need to have a supply of food here, even if only for a couple of days. In other words, it's a good idea to avoid emptying your cupboards completely. On the "bugging out" side, some people have been evacuated from their homes, e.g. because rioters have set fire to their building. If that happens, it's useful to have a bag packed and ready to go.

The last time I saw these kind of problems with infrastructure was during the big snowfall. However, the main difference there was that people cooperated with each other. In this situation, I'm suspicious of anyone I don't know. I don't blame the police for ignoring the looter I saw: I think that they're simply overwhelmed. If they arrested him, they'd probably be out of action for an hour, due to the whole booking in process at the police station, so it's probably better for them to stay put in case there are more serious problems.

Some people are saying that we should call in the army. However, that makes me think of Adama's quote in Battlestar Galactica: "There's a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people." So, I think it's best to avoid that for as long as possible.

Hopefully things will calm down soon and get back to normal.

Comments:

[User Picture]
From:sammoore
Date:August 9th, 2011 08:21 am (UTC)
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If they arrested him, they'd probably be out of action for an hour

According to the ACPO, each arrest produces, on average, 11 hours of paperwork for the arresting officer.

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[User Picture]
From:johnckirk
Date:August 10th, 2011 06:12 pm (UTC)
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That sounds about right, although I'm not sure how much of that has to be done right away. Quoting from Wasting Police Time (a book based on a blog), pp3-5:

"Fairly straightforward, yes? A fence has been smashed to pieces, we've got the guilty party and, very shortly, I can be back out on the streets looking for muggers and burglars and generally waging the war on crime.

Er, not quite.

Taking the suspect down to the police station and booking him into custody only took half an hour, because there wasn't a queue.

Then I returned to the address to speak to a couple of witnesses and take their statements.

[...]

I'd spent a couple of hours on the statements and a total, so far, of two hours and 31 minutes on this matter.

Back at the nick, I spent an hour waiting for the defence solicitor [...] to turn up, and a further hour making disclosure (in which we tell the defence what evidence we have) to said lawyer and interviewing the subject. He denied everything, so I then wrote a report (called an MG3) to the Crown Prosecution Service [...] and faxed them all the relevant documentation. After an hour of preparation, faxing and consulting I was told to charge the youth with criminal damage to the fence.

Charging, fingerprinting, photographing and DNAing the suspect took a further 45 minutes.

Thus far, I'd spent about five hours on the crime, plus a bit of getting to and from the scene.

The whole enquiry was concluded by about 21:30hrs.

I had something to eat and, at 22:15hrs, I began the file.

ACPO (the Association of Chief Police Officers) says this ought to take between four and six hours. Fortunately for you, the taxpayer (and me, come to think of it), I have the whole process down to about two hours.

[...]

I arrested my suspect at 16:06 hrs and at 00:30hrs this morning, I celebrated by going for a quick walk around the town centre, before booking off duty.

I'd spent approximately half an hour outside the police station actually 'policing'."


So, that's:
30 minutes booking in.
2 hours on statements.
2 hours with defence lawyer.
1 hour preparing report for CPS.
45 minutes fingerprinting etc.
2 hours on file.
Total = 8 hours 15 minutes.

If he'd spent 5 hours on the file (matching the ACPO's "4-6 hours" estimate), that would have been 11 hours 15 minutes in total, which matches your figure.

I assume that the only bit which has to be done immediately is booking in: I estimated an hour for that, although the writer said that he did it in 30 minutes on a good day. The BBC have an article about different methods the police could use to deal with rioters, and the 3rd item is most relevant here: "Bypass police procedure". I think it's ironic that these riots were initially sparked off by people complaining that the police were heavy-handed, but these policies/procedures are what allow the riots to continue.

Edited at 2011-08-10 06:13 pm (UTC)
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