A FLASH-mob street party pumping out “throbbing music” could have been used to distract scores of young people being sucked into the Birmingham riots.
That was one of the examples put forward in a new report commissioned to examine how to prevent similar violence in the future.
Author Professor Peter Latchford said the idea was designed to illustrate how city leaders needed to think and act differently to tackle the kind of unprecedented scenes of rioting that exploded last August.
“If they are dancing, they won’t be smashing,” the report said.
He was asked by Birmingham City Council to write an independent assessment of how civic leaders responded to the trouble and their “action to mitigate reoccurrences”.
The interim report, called They Moved Like Fish, identified how the council did well to get the streets back to normal, prevented more youngsters from becoming involved and used community contacts to help restore peace.
However, the report added: “We need to think hard about how we respond – particularly the pace and personality of our response – to prevent this type of infection.
“And we need to think about how we could prevent such a contagion taking place at all. We need to ask what the riots tell us about the way we live.”
The report made 15 early recommendations about how the city could insulate itself from further flashpoints.
It said the council had distinct strengths that could have been used to filter, distract and remove impressionable people from becoming embroiled in the trouble.
“When it became clear that a good number of younger people were heading for the city centre ‘like zombies’, we might have decided to hold a party for them – a flash-mob DJ-set, playing music somewhere central, adults handing out bottles of water, and with discreet security around the sides,” the report said.
“This may well have attracted the ‘partygoer’ segment of participants, distracting them from any disruptive behaviour, and displaying an overt adult interest in their needs. If they are dancing, they won’t be smashing.”
Such a move would “remove the cloak under which criminals were operating” and help police to identify troublemakers, he added.
The report also suggested in future the council might be ready to mobilise authority figures, such as teachers and community leaders, to work alongside police, “calling out rioters by name; asking them what on earth they were doing”.
It also recommended using community volunteers to patrol the streets alongside police.
“I suspect young male rioters would be significantly less likely to do silly things if they are being watched by large numbers of older adults in fluorescent vests,” the author added.
The report also suggested the city build on its network of relationships to bring communities closer together.