The number of police on London’s streets tonight will hit 16,000, with the Steve Kavanagh, a senior Met officer, warning of possible “mass disorder” to come.
I have just returned from a press conference with Kavanagh, the deputy assistant commissioner, and Simon Foy, the man leading the criminal investigation. We are starting to get a clearer picture of what happened across London on Monday night, and have learned that a man shot in Croydon last night during the violence there has now died.
Kavanagh’s main message was that the Met had not failed, but had been “stretched to an unprecedented level”. He claimed the intensity and scale of the violence, coupled with the rioters’ speed of movement, had never been seen before in the UK, or even Europe.
A burnt out furniture store in South London
David Cameron clearly felt something extra was needed this morning to reassure Londoners and the British wider public that they would be safe in the wake of last night’s riots.
Having flown home early from holiday in Italy, the prime minister has just given a press conference outside Downing Street and did his best to sound tough and in charge, without actually giving us much of an idea what the police can do to stop a fourth consecutive night of violence.
The main tactic will be a major increase in the number of police on the streets, from around 6,000 to 16,000. That will help, but lots of those will come from outside London, so won’t know the cities as well as the locals they are facing. In addition, nobody quite knows in which boroughs violence is likely to flare next.
Until a few hours ago, Downing Street was insisting David Cameron would not return to London to help oversee the response to the riots. This is an era of modern communications, we were told – the PM can be in charge from Italy.
At about the same time, a friend of mine was in a taxi trying to get home via Bethnal Green Road in east London, where police were involved in a stand-off with crowds of (largely) young men. The driver told her: “David Cameron needs to come back – nobody is speaking to these people [referring to the rioters].”
Sure enough, just 20 minutes ago, we were told Cameron would be coming home tonight, ready to chair a meeting of Cobra, the cabinet emergency committee, on Tuesday morning.