Riots that started in London spread to several English cities last night with widespread looting and arson leading to scores of arrests.
As a massive police presence in the capital appeared to quell unrest there, youths in major cities including Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol, Leicester, and Wolverhampton took to the streets robbing main-street stores and attacking officers.
A senior Manchester police official, Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan, said 110 people were arrested overnight in the city and in neighboring Salford and that officers were already sifting through CCTV camera images today to identify looters.
"Already today we have begun the process of arresting people whose images have been captured on CCTV and other media," he said in a stark warning to troublemakers. "My message is extremely simple: Hundreds and hundreds of people, we have your image, we have your face, we have your acts of wanton criminality on film. We are coming for you [starting] today, and no matter how long it takes, we will arrest those people responsible."
Three youths die in Birmingham riots
In England’s second most populous city, Birmingham, where the English cricket team is due to start a five-day test match against India today, three people died after being hit by a car when reportedly trying to defend local shops in the Winson Green area from looters. Police said a murder inquiry had been launched and more than 100 arrested in the West Midlands.
Despite the looting and arson in other cities, London – which endured the worst of the violence over the previous three nights – was calm with only isolated pockets of trouble.
IN PICTURES: Britain riots
More than 16,000 police officers backed up by mounted police, dog teams, and helicopters provided the show of strength promised by Prime Minister David Cameron after arriving back from holiday on Tuesday.
Just 24 hours after widespread riots, looting and arson, potential flashpoints were eerily quiet with few people on the streets.
In Clapham Junction, south London, where the previous night rioters had smashed shops and set fire to property, police guarded barriers on no-through roads with pubs quieter than usual and commuters from the nearby railway station – the UK’s busiest – scurrying home.
Police presence: Too little too late?
“It’s good to see so many police on the streets, but where were they last night when everything was going off?" asks lawyer Samantha Jones, who lives in the area. "People were definitely fearful last night about what happened and frightened. This area is normally really buzzy this time of night, but not tonight. I don’t know whether they’re still scared or intimidated by all the police but people seem to just want to go home … like me.”
A tour around other London areas saw a familiar pattern: Vast numbers of police, many from other cities, patrolled on foot or in vans, largely with nothing to do.
In multiethnic Brixton, which was the scene of violence on Sunday night, officers in fluorescent jackets were spread out along the main street and neighboring roads, 30 paces apart in an obvious show of force.
Benjamin Abraham, a teenager from Brixton, said he felt uncomfortable with the policy. “There was a bit trouble here but nothing major, nothing like what happened in [the nearby neighborhoods of] Ealing and Croydon,” he said.
Pointing at police lines he added: “It’s a bit over the top but I suppose if it stops any trouble it’s not a bad thing. We shouldn’t be smashing up our neighborhood – where does that get us?”
The mood on the streets was the same in other areas of south London such as Tooting, Stockwell, Kennington, Streatham, Battersea, and Colliers Wood. Vans and cars full of officers parked in high streets and side roads with police killing time, interspersed with the odd siren and flashing lights.
At around 1 a.m. local time Wednesday morning the hordes of police vehicles began to pull out of their designated spots and gather at rendezvous points, job done.
The Metropolitan Police will rightly view it as a success after the previous three nights of trouble, which so far has seen nearly 700 arrests and more than 110 officers injured in the capital following the fatal shooting of suspected gangster Mark Duggan in Tottenham last Thursday.
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