Cameron: Police tactics were wrong

City A.M. Reporter
Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to crack down on street gangs as a national priority and said rioters behind the country's worst violence in decades would be hunted and punished.

"The fightback has well and truly begun," he told an emergency session of parliament, acknowledging that police numbers and tactics had been inadequate at the outset of the violence which spread from London to other major cities.

"As to the lawless minority, the criminals who've taken what they can get, I say this: We will track you down, we will find you, we will charge you, we will punish you. You will pay for what you have done," the prime minister said.

Cameron is under pressure to ease austerity plans, toughen policing and do more for inner-city communities, even as economic malaise grips a nation whose social and perhaps racial tensions exploded in four nights of bewildering mayhem.

Skirting the hot issue of police funding cuts, Cameron authorised more power for the police, including the right to demand the removal of masks or face coverings if their wearers were suspected of crime.

Cameron, who has already authorised police to use baton rounds and water cannon where necessary, said he would also explore curbs on the use of social media tools if these were being used to plot "violence, disorder and criminality."

The Prime Minister said he would keep a higher police presence of 16,000 officers on London streets through the weekend and would consider calling in troops for secondary roles in future unrest to free up frontline police.

"This is not about poverty, it's about culture. A culture that glorifies violence, shows disrespect to authority, and says everything about rights but nothing about responsibilities," Cameron said.

Meanwhile the Association of British Insurers said the damage caused would cost at least £200m.