Police pledge to reclaim Liverpool streets

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The Independent Online

Extra police officers will be pounding the streets of Liverpool tonight after violence erupted in the south of the city.

Cars and wheelie bins were set alight on a trail of destruction which stretched from the city centre to Toxteth, Dingle and Wavertree.



The first reports of disorder came in at 10pm yesterday and calm was not restored until about 3am today.



Today Merseyside Police pledged to reclaim the streets and urged the community to help them catch the criminals behind the mayhem.



Deputy chief constable of Merseyside Police Bernard Lawson said extra officers would be on the streets tonight to curb the disorder.



Mr Lawson said: "We are determined to deal with any further incidents that may follow and we are putting in an enhanced and robust police response for any issues that may occur in future nights."



Police appeared to combat what they labelled "isolated outbreaks of disorder" by attempting to contain the troublemakers rather than charge into running battles.



A mob of about 300 people, mainly youths with their heads and faces covered, were the source of the trouble in the largely residential areas.



As the night progressed the group became more fragmented as officers in riot gear and wielding batons, supported by police vans, sealed roads off.



Several stand-offs took place as the rioters pelted officers with anything they could get their hands on, with missiles used ranging from golf clubs to bricks and bottles.



Mr Lawson said: "Let me make it clear from the start that the disorder, violence and damage we saw was the result of a small minority of young people engaged in criminal activity."



He added: "Let me be clear to those people engaged in violence and disorder on the streets of Merseyside: it is totally unacceptable and we will use every possible piece of evidence to catch them and put them before the courts to decide their fate," he said.



Police also appealed to the communities affected by the riots to come forward with any images, photographs or mobile phone footage of any criminal incidents.



Labour councillor Steve Munby, Liverpool City Council's cabinet member for neighbourhoods who represents the Toxteth area, today took part in a "spontaneous" community clean-up with residents.



Mr Munby said he believed the riots were led by a "small group of organised criminals" from outside the Toxteth area. Their main aim was to "loot and rob", he said.



Sonia Bassey-Williams, 45, the former chairman of the Merseyside Black History Month Group helped organise this year's 1981 Toxteth Riots exhibition at Liverpool's International Slavery Museum.



Mrs Bassey-Williams, who was born and raised in Toxteth, said the violence was a "reaction" to the Government cuts which were leaving more people in poverty.



Joe Anderson, leader of Liverpool City Council, said: "We deplore in the strongest terms the street violence and criminality which took place around the city centre and parts of south Liverpool last night."

PA