Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Sunday 7 August 2011

Smash-and-grab Tottenham style

Summer and rioting - it's one of those inevitable partnerships like strawberries and cream or tabloids and sleaze. It is a truth universally acknowledged that the probability that a tense situation will erupt into violence rises along with the mercury.

And along with the chance to indulge in a spot of gratuitous violence, these days a riot presents something of a commercial opportunity, if the BBC coverage is to be believed.

Shops and homes were raided and cash machines ripped out in Tottenham. There were also thefts from shops in nearby Wood Green.

The front window of Currys electrical store was smashed while Argos's door was also smashed in and broken glass covered the floor inside and out after looters apparently raided the stock room.

Of course, the BBC ought to know, since they and other news organisations carried constantly updated live reports, helpfully including 'get your looted goods here' maps and street references. The word was obviously travelling fast:

Teenagers and adults were said to have turned up in cars and filled their boots with stolen items, unimpeded by police. Others arrived on foot and piled shopping trolleys high with looted electronic goods.'

With commercials for the illegal trolley dash of the year going out on all sides thanks to mobile phones and the internet, small wonder that Tottenham briefly became the destination of choice for the discerning looter while law-abiding locals cowered in terror.

Is this, then, the default setting of urban Britain? With the forces of law and order busy elsewhere, is this consumer free-for-all the natural order of things? The nature of the goods taken suggests a keen eye on the potential resale value - provided the thief can convert the goods to cash.

While a branch of Aldi was simply torched, looters stripped Argos bare and cleared out electronics, clothes and phone shops. Meanwhile, cash machines were ripped out - something that requires coordination and a certain amount of know-how, according to the police investigating a similar crime near here.

A cynic might deduce a controlling intelligence at work here, giving looters a guaranteed market for their stolen goods; if so, how long before someone decides it's worth actually provoking a riot for the rich pickings of the surrounding district?

Update - about 20 minutes, as it turned out.


  1. "The nature of the goods taken suggests a keen eye on the potential resale value - provided the thief can convert the goods to cash."

    A keen eye on the local CashConverters and boot sales might prove lucrative.

  2. JuliaM, while researching for a post on a similar matter, I investigated the Cashconverters website (the things I do for my readers!).

    The organisation emphasises its cooperation with the police and states that the serial numbers of any goods submitted for sale will be recorded and checked against a database. It also also take photos of the vendors and copies of personal ID.

    So that route, at least, is effectively barred - as long as the looted shops kept the serial numbers of the goods and providing, of course, that all Cashconverters staff are incorruptible and impeccably honest...

    JH - I know that there are plenty of people out there waiting for the opportunity to arise, but has anyone actually provoked a riot from scratch for the purpose? Tell me more...


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