Chapter 9The London Riots – 1: Epidemiology, Spatial Interaction and Probability of Arrest

Toby P. Davies, Hannah M. Fry, Alan G. Wilson and Steven R. Bishop

9.1 Introduction

The need for public policy to be informed by an evidence-based approach has been recognised for some time; however, this is often problematic, particularly in the context of rare events. The difficulty is especially evident in situations where quantitative recommendations are required, such as estimating the appropriate contingency for a certain scenario, since traditional hypothesis testing is undermined by the paucity of data. In such cases, mathematical modelling has much to offer, allowing rigorous quantitative analysis of the system in question and the testing of varying scenarios. Recent advances in the modelling of large-scale social systems using techniques of complexity science mean this is now a viable approach, and indeed its potential has been demonstrated in such fields as epidemic modelling (Balcan et al., 2009; Colizza et al., 2006), crowd control (Johansson et al., 2012) and infrastructure resilience (Kinney et al., 2005). Here, we employ such an approach in the context of the 2011 London riots and the policy questions subsequently arising.

The London riots occurred between 6 and 10 August 2011, as the United Kingdom experienced its most widespread and sustained period of civil unrest in at least 20 years. Repeated episodes of looting, rioting, arson and interpersonal violence took place ...

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