As I drove to work on my usual route last week I was faced with manoeuvring around burnt out cars, vans and melted wheelie bins which littered the road. This was a very odd experience, and one which I hope not to repeat. Many of those who lived in the vicinity of the riots here in Liverpool described it as a terrifying experience to witness. While pundits have begun their usual dissection of such events, I have started to think through the spatial dimensions of why this may have occurred?
The Guardian have today mapped the location of people who have been appearing on riot-related charges in English magistrates’ courts. As part of this exercise they have also been kind enough to release the underlying data.
On the basis of this sample (please see the Guardian website for details about representativeness and caveats), the Guardian note that around 73% were under 25 and 90% were male, however, the residential address can reveal many more characteristics. Simon Rogers at the Guardian very kindly granted me access to a mirror of the public data, however with higher resolution address details which enabled more precise spatial referencing. However, the data were patchy, and indeed many addresses lacked detailed references which seemed to depend on which magistrate court they were attached to. Around 170 of the records could be geocoded at a level enabling higher resolution analysis to be conducted.
If the 2010 Index of Multiple Deprivation is appended to each of the records, this shows that from the sample of those appearing on riot-related charges, around 41% live in the most deprived neighbourhoods (lower super output areas) in England.
The index of multiple deprivation is also available for 2007, and can be used to expand this analysis to measure if these areas have been getting more or less deprived over recent history. The 2007 classification was appended to the same data and the relative rank of the residential areas compared between the two time periods. The results demonstrate that not only are the majority of the areas deprived, but 66% of them have been getting worse between 2007 and 2010.
Thus, these limited data and analysis seem to suggest that those people who have been appearing on riot-related charges (typically young males) live in some of the most deprived areas of our largest cities, and in neighbourhoods where the conditions are getting worse rather than better. Rioting is deplorable, however, if events such as this are to be mitigated in the future, the prevailing conditions and constraints effecting people living in areas must form part of the discussion. A “broken society” happens somewhere, and geography matters!