Too little has been done to prevent a repeat of the 2011 riots, it was claimed this week, as the borough reflected on the fifth anniversary of one of Croydon’s darkest nights.

Failure to address rifts in a “generation that is disconnected from their society” meant the devastating disorder could happen again, experts, politicians and victims warned.

The debate over the root cause of the August 8 riots continues to this day, with austerity politics, tension between youths and the police, and mindless criminality all blamed in certain quarters.

Some of those affected five years ago this week voiced fears that a failure to understand or address what sparked the disorder could fuel a repeat of the unrest.

"I think there is a generation that is disconnected from their society,” said Bushra Ahmed, whose launderette shop in London Road, West Croydon, was burned to the ground by rioters in 2011.

RELATED: Croydon's riots five years on: The story of the night the streets burned

“They can't get a job, what's their future? That's even more so now than it ever was.

“The area has got nicer - but riots happen in nice areas. Clapham is a nice area, but it didn't stop them hitting it."

Ms Ahmed, despite losing her business in the riots, suggested that the severe sentences for some of those involved—one man was jailed for six months for stealing bottled water worth £3.50—had failed to address the root causes.

She said: "I don’t excuse anyone, my life was turned upside down. It was the worst time of my life. But you can be in a good place and still be affected by society.

"It's absolutely baffling to me that we spend more keeping one person in prison than it would cost to send them to Eton.”

Your Local Guardian:

Bushra Ahmed in London Road this week

A leading academic who extensively researched 2011 riots this week also warned many of the underlying causes of the disorder have since worsened.

Tim Newburn, professor of criminology at the London School of Economics, said many rioters were drawn from the poorest communities, felt they had limited opportunities and blamed politicians who they saw as behaving with impunity for their lack of chances in life.

He told the Croydon Guardian: “On the one hand anyone who predicts riots is pretty foolish. They’re infrequent events, and it takes a lot to spark a riot.

“But if you think in more general terms about the broad social conditions that prevailed in 2011... in many ways I think they are worse.”

These worsening conditions included a rise in child and working-age poverty since 2011, as well as cutbacks in services such as youth provision due to Government austerity, Professor Newburn said.

Since the riots, Croydon has followed the national trend and seen a drop in unemployment. But the percentage of people earning less than the London Living Wage in the borough rose from 23.1 per cent in 2011 to 28 per cent in 2014, while the number of children living in low-income families and people becoming homeless also increased.

Professor Newburn warned anecdotal evidence from around the country suggested areas such as Croydon should not rely on “inward investment” and gentrification to turn its fortunes around.

He said: “There’s a lot of money sloshing around in some places, but there’s a real concern the changes are, a) superficial, and b) what they’re really doing is funnelling money to people who already have money.”

Steve Reed, Labour MP for Croydon North, claimed the disappearance of police front counters undermined promises to protect the borough.

He said: “The Government really let Croydon down after the riots. [Former Mayor of London] Boris Johnson and David Cameron promised to keep Croydon safe, but then let every single police station in my constituency shut down.”

The MP also said the number of police officers now patrolling the borough's streets had "only just" returned to pre-riots levels—levels that had meant there was an "inability of police to keep the area safe".

A report into policing in Croydon on the night of the 2011 riots found that all of the borough’s riot police had been deployed elsewhere around the city to deal with other flashpoints.

Mr Reed cited a lack of positive activities for young people, failure to intervene early enough to help troubled families, and levels of black male youth unemployment, as other persistent problems in the borough.

Your Local Guardian:

Looters breaking into a phone shop in Norbury during the riots

His Conservative counterpart, Gavin Barwell, said that in the aftermath of the 2011 riots there “were rather silly attempts by both the left and the right immediately afterwards to say what caused it”, dominated by polarised discussions about Government cuts or “one-parent families” and “feral children”.

He rejected the notion that the riots had been a reaction to austerity politics, pointing to data that showed many of the rioters were repeat offenders.

RELATED: Croydon's riots five years on: Family of unsolved murder victim Trevor Ellis beg public to break down 'wall of silence'

But he added: "I do think there was a general feeling of alienation among young people. And that's a different thing to austerity.

"That has long and distant roots. People would say to me, ‘I see people with this stuff and I’ve got no chance of ever getting it.’ And people talk about their experiences of the police.”

While saying he felt "much more optimistic" about the state of Croydon, given the levels of investment in the borough, he warned it was vital to ensure areas such as London Road were not left behind as the town centre benefited from numerous housing developments and the much-anticipated Westfield shopping centre.

And he added: "I don't think any politician could say to you it [the riots] could never happen again.

"You never know how the world will change. History tells us these things can happen.”

Your Local Guardian:

Maurice Reeves looking at an old photo of his House of Reeves store that was destroyed in the riots 

Croydon Council leader Tony Newman said the capital needed to be wary of the possibility of future unrest, but insisted Croydon had “changed dramatically”.

He added: “You never say never but you would hope that with the significant change we have seen and the genuine shock and horror that so many people had that it would be a lot harder for it to happen again. I think there are signs of a different Croydon emerging.”

But Maurice Reeves, who watched his House of Reeves furniture store burn to the ground live on television during the riots, admitted he still feared another outbreak of unrest similar to 2011.

“It’s there. It only needs a match to the tinder, and it could go off again,” he said.

“You would [think that], if you had your business destroyed in front of you.”

Got a story? Call the newsdesk on 020 8722 6388 or email