There have been some extraordinary scenes in London and other cities this week, from burning buildings and running street battles, to people unashamedly walking into a shop and leaving with a flat-screen television under their arms.
Many of the looters have not bothered to cover their faces as they raided electrical stores, sports shops and off-licences.
Some have even posed for a picture afterwards, proudly showing off their haul and posting the images on social-networking sites.
Prof John Pitts, a criminologist who advises several London local authorities on young people and gangs, says some of those taking the lead in the looting will be known to the authorities, while others are swept along.
He says looting makes “powerless people suddenly feel powerful” and that is “very intoxicating”.
“The world has been turned upside down. The youngsters are used to adults in authority telling them they cannot do this or this will happen. Then they do it and nothing happens.”
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