London riots: 4 key questions

Why haven't police been able to put a stop to the riots?

Many London residents say they felt “deserted” by the police, who seemed unable to contain the riots even as they increased their numbers on the streets, The Telegraph reports.

More than 6,000 officers were on duty as rioting spread, but still police forces were stretched so thin – a fact that has been blamed on government cuts – that in some cases they had to choose whether to devote scarce resources to preventing the spread of riots to a new area or focus on an area already on fire.

Police announced Aug. 9 that they will be adding plastic bullets to their arsenal and that they will use them against rioters and looters if necessary, The Christian Science Monitor reports. Some 16,000 police officers will be on the streets. All leave has been canceled and even detectives and those conducting training have been put out on the streets.

The Guardian reports that similar riots more than 25 years ago prompted police to abandon “proactive policing” – sending plainclothes police out to catch criminals “in the act” – in areas considered sensitive, such as those in which rioting has broken out. As a result, they are under-patrolled and lack an adequate police presence.

Any law enforcement in these areas is treated with a simmering resentment that quickly erupts into violence. The easy option for the police has been to designate them as "no-go areas", effectively abandoning the silent majority to a life of misery under the threat of violence and crime. Crime is going down, says the Home Office – but tell that to the residents of some of these estates. These people have no voice. The best the police can offer is a sergeant, a constable and two police community support officers. It's called "the neighbourhood policing team". We have replaced law enforcement with courtesy cops. Cuts to policing are evident in the mere fact that visible, proactive patrols don't exist any more.

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