British police prepared to flood the streets on Friday to ensure that weekend drinking does not reignite the rioting that swept London and other cities this week, shocking Britons and sullying their country's image a year before it hosts the Olympics.
Steve Kavanagh, deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said 16,000 officers, instead of the usual 2,500, would remain on duty in London in their biggest peacetime deployment -- a measure of the perceived public order challenge.
Even in normal times, alcohol-fuelled street disorder is commonplace across urban Britain at the weekend.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has called the initial police response inadequate in the four nights of violence, in which five people were killed.
His remarks drew a sharp response from the police service, which is facing deep cuts in numbers as part of a sweeping government austerity drive aimed at slashing public debt.
"The fact that politicians chose to come back is an irrelevance in terms of the tactics that were by then developing," said Hugh Orde, head of the Association of Chief Police Officers, referring to Cameron and other senior ministers who cut short their holidays after two days of mayhem at home.
More than 1,200 people were arrested during the unrest -- and one London looter, 24-year-old Natasha Reid, turned herself into police because she could not sleep for guilt after stealing a television, according to her defence lawyer.
In another case, Chelsea Ives, 18, who is among thousands of people enrolled as "ambassadors" to help visitors to the 2012 Olympics, was identified by her mother who saw her on television after allegedly throwing bricks at a police car, media said. Ives denied charges of burglary and violent disorder.
Courts have sat through the night to process those accused of crimes ranging from assault to stealing a bottle of water.
Offenders include a millionaire's daughter, a charity worker and a journalism student, though most are unemployed young men.
In what it said revealed tough justice being meted out, The Guardian newspaper found that in a sample of more than 150 cases before magistrates' courts, most defendants were remanded in custody, even when they pleaded guilty to relatively minor offences.
"The fightback has well and truly begun," Cameron told an emergency session of parliament on Thursday, outlining a range of measures aimed at preventing any repeat of England's worst riots in decades. Targeting street gangs became a top priority.
The trouble began in London after police shot dead a black man and refused to give his relatives information about the incident, but then degenerated into widespread looting and violence in many parts of the capital and other major cities.
Britain could make it easier to evict people from government housing for rioting, a minister said on Friday, the latest move by a coalition desperate to show it is tough on crime.
"That may sound a little harsh, but I don't think this is a time to pussyfoot around," Eric Pickles, communities minister, said, adding that the measure would require legal changes.
"These people have done their best to make people frightened on the streets where they live. They've done their best to destroy neighbourhoods, and frankly I don't feel terribly sympathetic towards them."
The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition is keen to regain the initiative after early criticism that it was slow to respond to the rioting which has overturned Britain's image abroad as a generally peaceable and orderly society.
A 68-year-old man who was attacked as he tried to put out a fire set by rioters in London on Monday night died of his injuries, officials said on Friday.
Three Muslim men were killed in Birmingham, central England, when a car drove into them as they tried to stop rioters, and a man died after being shot during riots in Croydon, south London.
Britain is divided over what caused the disorder, but many people fear any reduction in police numbers would leave the country exposed if similar trouble erupted in future.
The opposition Labour Party has urged the government to abandon its plans for a 20 percent phased cut in police funding.
Community leaders and some commentators point to poverty, unemployment and a sense of exclusion among many young people, with public sector cuts likely to hit the poor hardest.
But the scale and ferocity of the rioting, not only in inner-city areas but also in some middle-class suburbs, has generated a law and order debate with starkly different views.
"There's got to be a curfew put in place. I would have put in as many police as possible straightaway -- they did that eventually. I probably would have used teargas myself," said Graham Sawyer, 46, a construction site project manager from Romford, east of London.
"I'm old enough to remember (former prime minister) Margaret Thatcher. She certainly wouldn't have let it happen. I think she would have possibly gone too far, but I think she would have stopped it straight away," he said.
ReutersLast Mod: 12 Ağustos 2011, 17:38