- Associated Press - Thursday, August 11, 2011

LONDON Prime Minister David Cameron said Thursday that Britain would look to the United States for solutions to gang violence after nights of riots and looting.

He also promised authorities would get strong powers to stop street mayhem erupting again.

Mr. Cameron told lawmakers he was “acting decisively to restore order on our streets,” as police raided houses to round up suspects from four nights of unrest in London and other English cities.

Acknowledging that police had been overwhelmed by roving groups of looters in the first nights of the rioting, Mr. Cameron said authorities are considering new powers, including allowing police to order thugs to remove masks or hoods, evicting troublemakers from subsidized housing and temporarily disabling cellphone instant-messaging services.

He said the 16,000 police deployed on London’s streets to deter rioters and reassure residents will remain through the weekend.

“We will not let a violent few beat us,” Mr. Cameron said.

Lawmakers were summoned back from their summer vacations for an emergency session of Parliament on the riots, as the government and police worked to regain control, both on the streets and in the court of public opinion. Calm prevailed in London overnight, with a highly visible police presence watching over the capital, but a sense of nervousness lingered across the country.

During a session lasting almost three hours in which he faced 160 questions from lawmakers, Mr. Cameron promised tough measures to stop further violence and said “nothing should be off the table.”

He said that included water cannons and plastic bullets. He also said officials would look at “whether there are tasks that the army could undertake that would free up more police for the front line.”

Mr. Cameron said he would seek American advice on fighting the street gangs he blamed for helping spark Britain’s riots.

He told lawmakers that he would look to cities like Boston for inspiration, and mentioned former Los Angeles and New York Police Chief William Bratton as someone who could help offer advice.

Mr. Cameron said he wants to look at cities that had fought gangs “by engaging the police, the voluntary sector and local government.”

“I also believe we should be looking beyond our shores to learn the lessons from others who have faced similar problems,” he said.

He said the government, police and intelligence services are looking at whether there should be limits on the use of social-media sites like Twitter and Facebook or services like BlackBerry Messenger to spread disorder.

Government officials said they are discussing with spy agencies and communications companies whether messaging services could be disabled in specific areas, or at specific times.

Mr. Cameron said that, in the future, police will be able to order people to remove masks, hoods or other face coverings when they suspect them of concealing their identity to carry out a crime. Currently, police must seek approval from a senior officer.


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