London‘s third successive night of violent riots has seen turmoil spread across England, stretching police resources and leaving a trail of destruction.
Some residents have been forced to jump from their burning homes as fires engulfed buildings, ruining businesses and leaving scores homeless.
A red haze could be seen over London as fires raged on Monday night, while police sirens wailed across the city well into the early hours of Tuesday.
Three people were arrested on suspicion of attempting to murder a police officer after a male constable was run down by a car carrying alleged looters on Tuesday morning.
The policeman was in a stable condition in hospital, police said, while his colleague was taken to hospital with a minor injury.
The unbridled lawlessness began on Saturday night following a police shooting in northern London which resulted in the death of a 29-year-old man.
In the three nights since, 450 people have been arrested as mobs of young louts roam the streets confronting police, setting fire to vehicles, smashing windows and looting businesses.
While the violence was initially contained to the streets of suburban London, the riots have since spread to the central city of Birmingham, the western city of Bristol and the northwestern city of Liverpool.
“Ordinary people have had their lives turned upside down by this mindless thuggery,” Scotland Yard Commander Christine Jones said of the violence.
Police resources have been stretched and the capital’s police cells are full, with Scotland Yard announcing on Tuesday that anyone arrested was now being taken to surrounding areas.
More than 5000 police officers, many dressed in riot gear were on the streets of London overnight trying to restore order in hot spots to the north, east and south of the city, including more affluent suburbs such as Notting Hill.
On Tuesday morning, Scotland Yard said a total of 13,000 officers would be on duty over the next 24 hours.
Volunteer police, who have restricted powers and typically work only a few hours a week, have been told to report for duty to relieve some of the pressure on paid officers.
The Metropolitan Police described the riots as the worst it had seen in current memory for “unacceptable levels of widespread looting, fires and disorder”.
A total of 44 police officers were injured on Monday night and police received more than 20,000 calls – four times more than usual.
British Home Secretary Theresa May described the rioting as “sheer criminality”, vowing that those responsible would be brought to justice.
Asked if the army would be brought in to restore order, Ms May said an end to the riots could be brought with policing, the use of intelligence and the help of local communities.
“The way we police in Britain is not through use of water cannon,” she told Sky News.
News footage in Britain has shown brazen aggressors in broad daylight using street bins to smash business windows.
In one piece of footage, women can be seen and heard directing men to steal particular pieces of jewellery from a retailer while alarms scream.
Streets have been littered with the remnants of cash register tills and in at least one instance a cash machine was dragged from a business onto the street and forced open.
With many of the perpetrators identified as youths – some as young as 10 years old – authorities have appealed to parents to keep their children at home.
London’s everyday operations have been impacted by the violence, with public transport routes modified and cancelled, and some suburbs put in lockdown.
British Prime Minister David Cameron cut short his holiday in Italy and flew back to Britain early Tuesday to chair a meeting of the government’s emergency committee amid fears there will be a fourth night of violence.