This summer's riots in Birmingham and Wolverhampton stemmed from a lack of confidence in the police response to the initial distrubances in London, an independent report has found.
The vast majority of people interviewed for a study of the causes of the disorder said they believed the "sole trigger" for disturbances in their areas was the perception that the police "could not contain" the scale of rioting in Tottenham and then across London in August.
"Lack of confidence in the police response to the initial riots encouraged people to test reactions in other areas," the Riots Communities and Victims Panel found.
"Most of the riots began with some trouble in retail areas with a critical mass of individuals and groups converging on an area.
"Rioters believed they would be able to loot and damage without being challenged by the police.
"In the hardest-hit areas, they were correct."
The findings were outlined in a series of recommendations in the interim report detailing the "sometimes horrifying and tragic" accounts of people's experiences of the disturbances.
The study found there was no one single motivating factor for the riots.
"We heard a range of motivations from the need for new trainers to a desire to attack society," it concluded.
In areas unaffected by the rioting, people felt that they too would have experienced the disorder had the disturbances in other areas had continued for much longer, the report found.
"Few people ruled out the prospect of riots in the future," it added.
The report authors said they had heard "harrowing" stories on visits to areas affected by rioting.
"Lives were lost. Parents had to carry children out of burning homes, leaving a lifetime of possessions behind to be destroyed," it said.
"Shopkeepers lost everything they had built up over many years. The consequences of the riots are still being felt.
"In many areas, there is an overriding sense of despair that people could destroy their own communities."
The report's recommendations included an overhaul of the 1886 Riot Damages Act to ensure that victims of the riots receive compensation quickly.
Darra Singh, chairman of the panel, said in a news conference that the riots could happen again if immediate action was not taken.