Reports are coming in that Bexleyheath, Wimbledon, Greenwich, Ealing and Camberwell could be next on the list - and the wave of criminal damage, social unrest and mindless looting shows little sign of slowing.

The challenge now for police, fire and rescue and ambulance services is to work out the best way of tackling the problem head on. With the rioters no doubt growing in strength and confidence, a swift and immediate reaction is what is required.

But what can they do and how can this be achieved?

The good news is that the PM has announced that an unprecedented 16,000 police will be on the streets of London tonight - 6,000 more than last night. Manpower has been freed-up due to the cancellation of tonight's sporting programme (England's international against Holland has been cancelled, as have cup games at Charlton and West Ham), and reinforcements from the north will be sent down to bolster those already in the capital.

The challenge will no doubt be to have the right intelligence to get to where they're needed - and fast.

Police have also not ruled out the possibility of using live baton rounds. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Kavanagh of the Metropolitan Police told The Guardian: "If we need to, we will do so." 

However, baton rounds have only been used intermittently in the UK, and there were calls for them to be banned in 2002. 

The other major option being mooted is for water cannons to be used. This would be a first for mainland England, where they've never been used before - and it could be seen as the UK government and police has lost control if they are rolled out, public order expert at Queen's University Belfast, Dr Peter Shirlow told the BBC. 

To date, water cannons have only been used in Northern Ireland to control crowds and prevent disorder, and moving them to the UK may make a brittle situation there even more fragile. 

But other avenues might be worth exploring, such as a curfew. Acting Met Commissioner Tim Godwin has already made a public statement essentially asking for a voluntary curfew, saying, "I do urge parents to start contacting their children and ask where they are." Yet that appears to have made little difference last night. 

The next step would be for a proper curfew - something already supported by Diane Abbott MP. Speaking on BBC Breakfast, she said: "I have not heard of a curfew on mainland Britain in the past century. It's very difficult to impose. I'm not saying that it is definitely the way forward but it is something we have to consider. 

"These young people, who seem to have no stake in society, are trashing their own communities. We cannot continue to have increasing numbers of looters on the streets night after night." 

Curfews have however been used in mainland Europe, for example, in France 2005, under-16s were banned from the streets of towns and cities unless accompanied by an adult between 10pm and 6am. 

Dr Shirlow however told the BBC that enforcing a curfew is both labour intensive and would not necessarily tackle the disorder. "If you already have a stretched police force, how are you going to maintain a curfew?"  


Another - more controversial - option involves the army helping to control the rioters. This is likely to be a last resort, and has already been ruled out by politicians, who don't want to seen to be losing control. 

Soldiers are also not trained in public order policing. Dominic Bryan, director of the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen's University, Belfast, told The Guardian it is "a skilled and artful job". It is also one many young soldiers simply have no experience of following the ceasefire in Northern Ireland - meaning pulling the army in could have significant risks, making the situation potentially worse. 


Posted: 16.10, 9.8.11,