Prof Marian FitzGerald says: “With the current economic climate, it is not going to get better; it’s going to get worse so the idea that the government has some sort of magic wand is whistle in the wind really.”

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A leading criminologist has warned the county may be at risk of seeing riots like the ones that blighted the streets of London last year.

Prof Marian FitzGerald, a visiting professor of criminology at at the University of Kent, has warned of the risks of future trouble because lessons haven’t been learnt and the Government hasn’t done enough to tackle the root causes of the disturbances.

Although Prof FitzGerald said it was impossible to predict when and where the next riot would take place, she said the county could be at risk of seeing trouble on its streets.

She said: “Any area which has these groups of very deprived children with their noses pressed up against the windows of affluence is potentially a risk.

“They tend to be the sorts of places where it is not just a case of deprivation, it’s where you have got a population who are fairly deprived but with easy ready access in particular to retail outlets that are selling high quality goods and that’s where you tend to get the riots.

“These places are vulnerable, but the fact that these pre-conditions exist doesn’t mean you can predict where they will take place. I am sure these pre-conditions in Kent exist, but the question is will there be a spark that will ignite the tinderbox?”

Rioting and street crime hit London last August after Mark Duggan was shot dead by police and tensions between officers and young people erupted in Tottenham.

Trouble spread across London and riots also broke out in cities such as Manchester and Birmingham.

There was minor disruption in Kent – youths started several fires across Medway and vandals in Dartford threatened to set alight a community centre.

Prof FitzGerald’s observations come from her new research carried out for the Youth Justice Board. She said perceptions that teenagers were to blame for the trouble in the capital were false.

She said: “Young people aged between 10 and 17 were not responsible for the riots, but in fact the main people involved were people aged between 18 and 24. Instead of talking about bad parenting and gangs, we need to have a look at the influence that these young adults have on those younger than them.”

The criminologist said the chances of a riot were only going to increase with the effects of the global recession.

She said: “With the current economic climate, it is not going to get better; it’s going to get worse so the idea that the government has some sort of magic wand is whistle in the wind really.”

Prof Fitzgerald also warned of the dangers of police cuts and the impact it could have on future riots.

She said: “With the police facing cuts, they are going to be more than ever in difficulty in dealing with the riots if they do take off again.”

At the time of the riots, Kent Police Federation chairman Ian Pointon added his concerns about the future policing of potential riots and the government needed to revise its plans for cutbacks.

He said: “It’s rather ironic that it took 16,000 officers to snuff out the trouble in London when Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary is warning that there will be 16,200 fewer cops in three years’ time.

“In Kent there will be 500 less police to deal with anything, and not just any future looting or rioting that might happen. It’s also 500 less police to do all the detective work afterwards to bring these people to justice.

“As a matter of urgency the Government has got to think again about the cuts to policing. These riots came out of nowhere and nobody could have predicted them, which is why we can’t afford to lose as many officers as is planned.”



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