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NCJ Number: 98185 Find in a Library
Title: Competing Explanations of the Merseyside Riots of 1981
Journal: British Journal of Criminology  Volume:25  Issue:1  Dated:(January 1985)  Pages:60-69
Author(s): P Cooper
Date Published: 1985
Page Count: 10
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Annotation: This examination of the summer 1981 civil disturbances in Merseyside, England, suggests that explanations lie in the marginalized status of the riot communities, coercive policing, and the need for such communities to assert their right to equal concern and respect.
Abstract: In the summer of 1981 riots spread from London to other cities, including the Toxteth area of Liverpool and other parts of Merseyside with high unemployment rates. At the time the riots commonly were explained as an example of the hooligan element pursuing common criminal motives. From July through mid-August, Merseyside police arrested 530 people for offenses connected with civil disturbances, and 244 of these arrests were made in Toxteth. In Toxteth, almost three-quarters of those arrested for indictable and summary offenses were convicted. In the rest of Merseyside, this proportion was slightly over two-thirds. Data on these arrestees refutes the Merseyside police's contention that the rioters were either criminals or young adolescents. Half of those arrested in Toxteth had never before appeared in criminal court and nearly half were over 21. The traditional youthful criminal group consisted of just one-third of the Toxteth arrests and slightly over half the arrests in the rest of Merseyside. In contrast to reports that many rioters had traveled some distance to the riot, arrest data showed that over four-fifths of the Toxteth arrestees had come from the immediate vicinity or an adjacent area. Riot participation was shared proportionately between the black and white population. Both in Toxteth and the rest of Merseyside, the unemployed were overrepresented in riot arrests. Although once prosperous, Toxteth has deteriorated during the 1970's and has been deserted by people able to move out, leaving behind those with little economic or political power. Police statements made during 1981 indicated that the strategy at the time emphasized coercion rather than policing by consent. In this situation, a relatively minor incident acted as a focus for the community's feelings of frustration with the experience of a fundamental inequality. Tables and 10 references are supplied.
Index Term(s): Employment-crime relationships; Foreign police/community relations; Riot causes; Unemployment; Urban area studies
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