From shopkeepers and middle-class writers to Sikh communities and right-wing soccer "fans," Londoners are ready to take action to protect their homes and businesses from rioting.

After four nights of violence, many are saying enough is enough and they will stop the looters themselves if the authorities cannot.

Police have warned that vigilantes are putting their own safety at risk and could make matters worse. The risks were highlighted by the death of three Muslim men run over by a car while protecting their area in the central English city of Birmingham on Tuesday.

Critics say taking the law into your own hands can be an excuse for more thuggish behavior which could inflame racial and social tensions.

London's Metropolitan Police flooded the streets of the capital with 16,000 officers on Tuesday night in an effort to quell the violence. In addition to the officers there were locally formed groups determined to stop any looting.

In the Dalston area of east London, shopkeepers of Turkish origin united to ward off rioters who ransacked shops and set fire to buildings and cars in nearby parts of Hackney.

"We can see the police was not effective enough because these guys come (in their) fifties, hundreds," said jewelry store owner Mahir Erbil. "We thought we could get together and defend our street and our premises and, thanks to God, nobody came. They were lucky not to come."

Some locals are armed with metal bars. Shopkeepers prevented rioters from breaking into a nearby restaurant on Monday, during the height of the riots.


Erbil, 31, said the family-owned business also had a branch in Tottenham, the north London district where the riots started, which had been destroyed. "Just the walls are left," he said.

He briefly opened the Dalston shop on Wednesday but soon pulled down the shutters. He felt it was still too dangerous to open.

Another shopkeeper, who declined to give his name, said a crowd of youths tried three times to get into the street of shops on Monday night but locals chased them away.

In Brick Lane in east London, famous for its curry houses, restaurant staff said they were also prepared to band together to protect their businesses from looters. The street is so far unscathed by the riots.

Restaurant worker Syed Hossan, 41, said there was a very strong Bangladeshi community in Brick Lane and rioters would not be allowed in. "They know if they come here, they cannot go out," he said.

Around 400 mostly white middle-class residents of the east London district of Hackney, many holding long-handled brooms, gathered outside Hackney Town Hall on Tuesday in a show of strength after the previous night's violence.

Writer David Harrison, 49, told the crowd, "If you want to come out tonight if there is trouble, there are enough of us to make a difference tonight.

"Let's not wait till tomorrow morning, if it kicks off again tonight, I'll be out, I'll bring people with me. If we all come out, it won't happen."

He later told Reuters he was not a vigilante. "It's just about being on the streets, it's not about running battles, it's just being here. It's exercising our right to walk the streets."

The English Defense League, which protests against "radical Islamism" and critics say is a far-right group attracting soccer hooligans, said it was taking action to "safeguard" local communities and its members were organizing themselves in London and other English cities.

"We are hoping to safeguard local businesses through a strong physical presence, and discourage trouble-makers from gathering in our town and city centres," the EDL said in a statement.

One website, Casuals United, which says it represents "firms -- the lads who had to form into military units in order to travel to football matches," said soccer fans had formed groups on Tuesday night in Enfield, north London, the scene of trouble earlier in the week.

"Well done all the football lads who mobbed up to protect their areas and innocent people's property last night," the website said. "You know things are bad when football crowds have to police the streets."

Videos posted on YouTube showed large numbers of predominantly white men, reportedly walking through Enfield chanting "England, England."

A message posted on YouTube under the name "england1213" said fans of Millwall soccer club had gathered in the south London suburb of Eltham on Tuesday.

"Looters would? (have) been either very brave or very stupid to step foot in Eltham last night!" it said.

Another video was posted with the title "White Community defending their community against immigrant looters."

Anti-racist group Hope not Hate said the last thing communities needed was the EDL claiming to defend them.

"The news that the EDL is promising to come out on the streets to defend our communities from rioters should be met with the derision and contempt it deserves," Nick Lowles, Hope not Hate's coordinator, wrote on his blog.

In Southall, in west London, hundreds of Sikhs turned out to defend their homes and temples against potential rioters on Tuesday.

"The neighbourhood is in a very bad position so that's why we take the precaution," Himmat Sohi, president of the largest Sikh temple in Europe based in Southall, told Reuters.

He said the combined efforts of the community and the police had helped ward off any trouble.

Despite being overwhelmed by rioters at times, the police said they did not support vigilantes.

"What I don't need is these so-called vigilantes who appear to have been drinking too much and taking policing resources away from what they should have been doing, which was preventing the looting," the Metropolitan Police's Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stephen Kavanagh told Sky News.

However, London police advised business owners that they could use "reasonable force" to protect themselves.

"As a general rule, the more extreme the circumstances and the fear felt, the more force you can lawfully use in self-Defense," a police message said.