A mathematical model of the London riots and their policing

Toby P. Davies*, Hannah M. Fry, Alan G. Wilson, Steven R. Bishop

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

50 Citations (Scopus)


In August 2011, several areas of London experienced episodes of large-scale disorder, comprising looting, rioting and violence. Much subsequent discourse has questioned the adequacy of the police response, in terms of the resources available and strategies used. In this article, we present a mathematical model of the spatial development of the disorder, which can be used to examine the effect of varying policing arrangements. The model is capable of simulating the general emergent patterns of the events and focusses on three fundamental aspects: the apparently-contagious nature of participation; the distances travelled to riot locations; and the deterrent effect of policing. We demonstrate that the spatial configuration of London places some areas at naturally higher risk than others, highlighting the importance of spatial considerations when planning for such events. We also investigate the consequences of varying police numbers and reaction time, which has the potential to guide policy in this area.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1303
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes



Cite this

Davies, T. P., Fry, H. M., Wilson, A. G., & Bishop, S. R. (2013). A mathematical model of the London riots and their policing. Scientific Reports, 3, 1-9. [1303]. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep01303