A man looks at a burned out police van set alight during riots in Tottenham
A man looks at a burned out police van set alight during riots in Tottenham Reuters

Tottenham, the neighborhood in North London where the current rioting originated, is a community beset with the familiar problems of modern urban Britain – rampant drug abuse, gun violence, high joblessness and racial tensions.

Mark Duggan, the young man whose death is believed to have incited the violence and looting that ensnared Tottenham over the weekend lived in Broadwater Farm – a notorious council estate (housing project) where similar riots erupted in 1985.

In that disturbance 26 years ago, a young black woman named Cynthia Jarrett died of a stroke while police searched her home, sparking widespread rioting in the estate, which eventually led to the death of police officer.

Gang warfare, drug trafficking, high unemployment and teenage pregnancy have blighted Tottenham for many years – the borough of Haringey (of which Tottenham is a part) reports 5,000 violent crimes every year.

A new and deadly entrant into the neighborhood’s woes is heroin, which is believed to be controlled by Turkish mobsters who have moved into North London in recent years.

Tottenham is more than 50 percent white, but has one of London’s largest concentrations of Afro-Caribbean people, who represent about 25 percent of the population. The remainder is comprised of mostly Asian people. As a result, racial tensions are high – 100 hate crimes were reported in the area last year.

According to data from Haringey Borough Council, Haringey is the 13th most deprived borough in the country; and the 4th most deprived borough in London.

However, the leader of Haringey Borough Council, Claire Kober, commented on the recent riots in the area: “The people of Tottenham have worked hard to build a real sense of community over the past 25 years and they deserve far better than the pain and damage inflicted by a minority of mindless troublemakers. If such people think they can inflict damage to the community spirit of the people of Tottenham it shows they have no understanding of the character of those who strive to make it a better place. All of us together are more determined than ever to improve people’s lives and will concentrate our efforts on rebuilding. There must be no more violence and I know I speak for the vast majority of Tottenham’s people in calling for that.”