UK RIOTS LATEST: Why not Norwich?

The rumours spread like wildfire.

Twitter pinpointed locations across Norwich in which the disaffected and angry would meet to emulate the disturbing scenes taking place across the country, and potentially cause chaos in the process.

Except they didn't. Aside from a few extra policemen on the beat, the city remained calm and trouble-free.

Over recent days, scenes of anarchy have been broadcast to an often stunned public, as what began as a peaceful protest against the shooting of a man turned into something more dangerous, leading to deaths itself.

Starting in Tottenham, then Hackney and then boroughs across the capital, it has extended beyond the M25 to places like Manchester, Birmingham and even Gloucester, often fuelled by modern means of communication. So why has this happened and what likelihood Norwich is next? North Norwich MP Chloe Smith, pictured, said she was 'shocked' by the footage, and called it 'thuggery, pure and simple'.


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However, she said she did not think such lawlessness would make it to Norwich.

She praised the sense of community as being a key factor in stopping any local trouble and also spoke highly of the way Norfolk police operates.

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She said: 'I have a high opinion of Norfolk police – they are on the streets in the city when they are needed, they respond swiftly to help victims of crime, and they have always worked closely with people young and old in the city to help foster community spirit.

'We also have many strong community groups, such as the East Norwich Youth Project and Streetwise in the Heartsease and Pilling Park, which get out on the streets to demonstrate a far better path based on respect for the place and people you live with.'

Dr Gavin Nobes is a professor at the University of East Anglia whose expertise covers children and anti-social behaviour. He said the city's relative isolation might help prevent trouble and pointed to the strong prevalence of youngsters within the riots. Multiple levels of deprivation played a key role in events, as well as a lack of parental control, he said.

Dr Nobes emphasised that the 'social bond' with wider society was not there for many involved, commenting that those with jobs and families had more to lose by becoming involved.

'I think it says a great deal about human nature and that there's quite a thin line between criminality and legality,' he said. 'This isn't just about nicking a pair of jeans, this is kids showing off to each other through criminality. They've got important people in their lives, but they're not mum, dad or an employer – it's their friends.'

As chief executive of Norwich's Future Projects, Dawn Jackson added her voice of support to local policing, which in recent days has seen officers and PCSOs offering reassurance outside shops on Gentleman's Walk.

Future Projects works with hard-to-reach groups and she said �20,000 police funding a year and a half ago for an outreach group to engage with teenagers had brought huge dividends.

Impressed with the response from young people in the area to the riots, she emphasised, however, that it was important to engage and reflect a population that was ever-changing – something perhaps signified by the group's involvement in the creation of a new local charity focused on black culture.

Another of those at the heart of local efforts to engage youngsters is Darren Grice, executive director of The Garage. Offering a range of creative activities and workshops in its city-centre venue which contains a theatre and dance studio, The Garage places a special emphasis on those aged between eight and 25.

Mr Grice said good, well inter-connected youth provision in the area was an important factor in preventing anti-social behaviour and added that the compact nature of the city helped this. 'Activities make a difference as they engage young people and it helps them realise they have value,' he added.

However, he warned funding cuts threatened to reverse this.

Norwich City Council leader Brenda Arthur echoed this fear. She also added that no community is fully immune from sporadic acts of violence.

'We have to make sure we're investing in people, not marginalising them,' she said. 'It's a complex issue, and we just have to hope it doesn't happen here in Norwich.'

What do you think? Write to Evening News letters at Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk. Visit our website at www.eveningnews24.co.uk where you can add your voice to the online debate.

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