British Prime Minister David Cameron has reportedly allowed the use of plastic bullets to control rioters. According to British media reports, this unprecedented decision of arming police officers with plastic bullets was taken after a discussion with the head of the Metropolitan Police.
On Tuesday, a senior London police officer had said that plastic bullets were one of the tactics being considered by the authorities. Such bullets have never been used before during British disturbances.
London calm, violence spreads to other cities
Thousands of extra police officers flooded into London on Wednesday in a bid to end Britain's worst rioting in a generation. An eerie calm prevailed in the capital, but unrest spread across England on a fourth night of violence driven by diverse and brazen crowds of young people.
Scenes of ransacked stores, torched cars and blackened buildings frightened and outraged Britons just a year before their country is to host next summer's Olympic Games, bringing demands for a tougher response from law enforcement. Police across the country have made more than 1,100 arrests since the violence broke out over the weekend.
In London, where armoured vehicles and convoys of police vans patrolled the streets, authorities said there would be 16,000 officers on duty - almost triple the number present Monday. They said a large presence would remain in the city through the next 24 hours at least.
The show of force seems to have worked.
"Without wishing to speak too soon it's been reasonably quiet for us so far tonight," London's Fire Brigade said in a message posted to Twitter earlier in the evening. "Let's hope it stays that way."
But outside the capital, chaos was spreading. (With agency inputs)