London Police Run Out of Space as City Licks Wounds
Staff Writer, CNBC.com
Central London's police cells are full to the brim as more than 200 people were arrested on a third night of disorder in the U.K.'s capital. Parliament is recalled and 16,000 police officers will hit the city's streets Tuesday night, as the government tries to stem the rising tide of violence.
The number of people people in custody numbered 450 Tuesday, after riots spread from Tottenham in North London to engulf Croydon, Brixton, and Lavender Hill in the south and Hackney in the east.
Violence was also reported in parts of Birmingham, Liverpool, and Bristol.
In London, 44 police officers were injured, several seriously, as rioters and looters lashed out with bottles, bricks, firebombs, and vehicles. Fourteen members of the public were also hurt, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) said, as violence hit "disturbing" levels. One 26-year old man was fatally shot in Croydon.
The MPS received 400 percent more emergency calls than usual over the third day of violence in London, all leave was canceled and officers were drafted in from as far away as Manchester. Some 6,000 personnel, supported by armored vehicles, dogs, and horses, were on the streets Monday evening as mobs looted stores and vandalized property. Buildings and cars were still smoldering on Tuesday morning, as David Cameron said that an additional 10,000 officers would hit the streets on Tuesday night.
CNBC.com understands that police are anticipating further trouble Tuesday evening, once again targeting Hackney, Brixton, and Croydon, as well as London Fields, Kilburn, and Ealing.
At political risk forecaster Control Risks, analyst Jake Stratton told CNBC.com that the violence is likely to continue for a number of days.
"We don’t anticipate a major escalation of the unrest, though it is unlikely to die down within the next 48 hours. It is possible that different low-income suburbs of London will experience rioting, as rioters try to circumvent the heightened police presence in the worst affected areas, but the overall intensity of the unrest is likely to diminish," he said.
"Heavy handed intervention by the police resulting in the death or serious injury of rioters would be the most obvious trigger to reignite serious and widespread unrest, but the approach of the police so far suggests that they are sensitive to this scenario, increasing deployment, but refraining from more aggressive tactics," Stratton said.
Police tactics were evolving during the night, as an overstretched MPS tried to control spreading disturbances. At 2:30 a.m. local time, in Lavender Hill in South London, police used armored vehicles to push back rioters.
"The success of this tactic means that we will consider its use elsewhere as required," a statement from the MPS said, adding later that it may deploy baton rounds Tuesday evening, if violence escalates.
Politicians Vow Response
Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson both returned from their holidays in response to the widening social concerns over the rioting. Cameron chaired a meeting of the government's COBRA emergency planning group early Tuesday.
An England versus Holland soccer match, scheduled for Wednesday night in London, was called off Tuesday.
Speaking outside 10 Downing Street, Cameron said that the rioting was "criminality, pure and simple."
"People should be in no doubt that we will do everything necessary to restore order to Britain's streets," he said.
Parliament will be recalled on Thursday, Cameron said.
MPS Commander Christine Jones issued a statement on Monday warning that the violence would not go unpunished.
"We are using tactics flexibly to respond to the disorder we are still seeing in different areas of the capital. Anyone involved in criminality should be under no illusion that we will pursue you," she said. "We have been making arrests all evening and have a team working during the night examining CCTV images. We will follow up evidence in the coming days in order to bring anyone else responsible for criminal acts to justice."
The MPS has begun to release closed circuit television footage of lootersto media in an attempt to identify and deter offenders as part of "Operation Withern."
A distribution center for Sony media products caught on fire in Enfield, North London, on Monday night, although it remains unclear whether the incident was related to the rioting. The fire on Solar Way in Enfield is still billowing smoke, and police are warning residents to stay inside with windows and doors shut.
The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), a trade organization, told CNBC.com that 93 stores had been affected by the violence, either directly or by deliveries being disrupted. Trade is slow and many stores in affected areas are planning to close early, the ACS said.
The lasting damage could be considerable, according to the ACS. "A significant minority of retailers only insure against fire or business-threatening incidents," a spokesperson for the organization said. This may mean they are not covered for the damage caused by looters.
"Experience from Northern Ireland suggests that retail areas can take a long time to recover from rioting," the spokesperson added. "In some cases retailers decide not to re-open."
In a statement, Nick Starling, director of general insurance and health at the Association of British Insurers, said: "It is too early for us to have an accurate picture of total costs, especially business interruption costs, but insurers are expecting significant losses, of at least tens of millions of pounds."
Retailers had already responded by shutting stores early on Monday night. Supermarket chain Sainsbury's closed stores, including its large Whitechapel branch, which has a large electronics section. Looters are routinely targeting high-value electrical and fashion stores, taking televisions, computers, and videogame consoles.
“A number of our stores were closed earlier than usual (Monday) as a precaution, in some cases on the advice of police. Sixteen of our stores experienced serious incidents during the disturbances last night. All of these stores have now reopened, except three of our convenience stores, which remain closed and will reopen as soon as possible," a Sainsbury's spokesperson told CNBC.com. "All our other stores are open for business as usual. As far as we are aware, no customers or store colleagues have been injured, and their safety remains our priority.
“We are assessing the situation on an hour by hour basis, as the safety of our customers and store colleagues is paramount. We will continue to take advice from police and other authorities throughout the day,” the spokesperson said.
At least one Tesco store was looted in Hackney. A Tesco spokesperson told CNBC.com that the group was liaising with the police and that decisions to close stores would be taken on a local level.
"A number of Tesco stores in London and other major English cities were affected by criminal gangs of looters and arsonists overnight. Once again we commend the actions of our hard-working and courageous staff in opening all but one of these stores this morning. We will cooperate fully with the police in bringing these criminals to justice," the spokesperson said.
Greggs, which operates a chain of bakers, suffered damage across a number of stores.
“The safety and security of our employees and customers is paramount, and we have instigated a number of planned closures and additional security measures according to the expert advice we are receiving. We can confirm that our Peckham shop has been affected by fire but, thankfully, our employees were clear of the premises and only a small number of other shops have suffered damage at this point in time," a spokesman for the FTSE 250 company said.
The destruction of the Sony Digital Audio Disc Corp. facility also highlighted how the disruption began to spread to other industries. The site held stock from many major record companies, but among the affected businesses was PIAS, which handles distribution for independent artists and labels in the U.K., many of whom are expected to have lost their entire stock. Darren Hemmings, the company's head of digital marketing said on Twitter that they were aware that the whole site had burned to the ground, and that they were still trying to estimate the damage done to the business.
London's public transport began to work relatively quickly on Tuesday morning, and there were no major disruptions being reported, as the city tried to return to normality.
Social networking is understood to have played a part in directing the riots, and in the aftermath.
Suggestions that looters have organized their actions using Blackberry Messenger, a free communication network amongst users of Research In Motion handsets, popular amongst British teenagers, have sparked calls for the system to be restricted or taken down.
David Lammy, member of parliament for Tottenham, where the riots began, was among those demanding that the network be suspended.
Research In Motion has offered to cooperate with the U.K. police force.
The @riotcleanupTwitter account had attracted nearly 50,000 followers by 11 a.m. London time, as residents of London and other affected cities pledged to clear up the debris left by their antisocial neighbors.