What’s up with Burning & Destruction, 2

I recently posted about why people burn and destroy stuff during large public protests, and it got a bit long and I failed to finish one of the points.  I do so here.

The bits I failed to address involve the targets of burning and destruction:

Why do people burn and destroy in their own neigborhoods, where they know the proprietors and damage neighbors property?

There is less research on the targets of property destruction during riots than one would like.  As one researcher put it, studies:[1]

have generally lacked the requisite data on the ownership and type of stores (both looted and non-looted) throughout the riot areas needed to [determine] patterns of destruction and damage.

We do have a few such studies, however, and they tell us that targeting is not random: certain types of businesses are burned and destroyed (and looted).  Two relevant findings stand out.

First, people tend to engage in such activity in their neighborhoods (few travel to a site, then burn and destroy).[2]

Second, people tend to burn, destroy and loot businesses where the police are not immediately present.[3]


[1] Celebration, Politics, Selective Looting and Riots: A Micro Level Study of the Bulls Riot of 1992 in Chicago Michael J. Rosenfeld Social Problems 1997, 44(4): 483-502.

[2] Target choice during extreme events: A discrete spatial choice model of the 2011 London riots P Baudains, A Braithwaite & SD Johnson Criminology, 2013,  51(2): 251–285.

[3] Rosenfeld (1997); Baudanis, et al (2013); and The Dynamics of Collective Violence: Dissecting Food Riots in Contemporary Argentina J Auyero & TP Moran Social Forces (2007) 85 (3): 1341-1367.

About Will H. Moore

I am a political science professor who also contributes to Political Violence @ a Glance and sometimes to Mobilizing Ideas . Twitter: @WilHMoo
This entry was posted in Baltimore 2015, Stump the Chump and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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