Computers could help in riot responses

Feb. 21, 2013 at 4:51 PM
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LONDON, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- A computer model of city layouts could help police predict the spread of riots or other civil disturbances and how they impact cities, British researchers say.

Scientists at University College London said the model shows the importance of considering the layout of cities to allow police to suppress disorder as quickly as possible once a riot is in progress.

"As riots are rare events it is difficult to anticipate if and how they will evolve," study co-author Toby Davies said. "Consequently, one of the main strategic issues that arose for the police during the 2011 London riots concerned when and where to deploy resources and how many officers would be required to control the disorder."

During August 2011, Britain experienced its most widespread and sustained period of civil unrest for at least 20 years, with looting, rioting, arson and violence in in several cities including London, Manchester and Birmingham.

The researchers used data supplied by the Metropolitan Police to simulate and analyze the patterns of the 2011 events, focusing on the contagious nature of participation, the distances traveled to riot locations, and the deterrent effect of policing, a UCL release said Wednesday.

"The model we've created highlights the most susceptible areas of the city and has the potential to anticipate the escalation of rioting, Davies said. "Theoretically this could be employed by the police in future to assist in deploying their resources more effectively."

"The ultimate aim of the work is to produce a tool which can be used to test strategies and to prepare in an informed way."

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