Home Secretary Theresa May condemned chaotic scenes while Scotland Yard beefed up its presence before looting and violence spiralled out of control for a third consecutive night.
As thousands of rioters took to the streets across the London districts including Hackney, Lewisham, Peckham and Ealing, Scotland Yard’s most senior officer called on parents to contact their children and urged the public to clear the streets.
Croydon, in south London, was in flames as fires started by rioters engulfed several buildings, including a 150-year-old furniture store, Reeves.
Police in Croydon were investigating a “non-fatal” shooting, a source said. No more details were immediately available.
The fresh wave of violence also spread north to central Birmingham, with police saying shop windows had been smashed and looting had taken place.
At least 215 people have been arrested and 25 charged following the riots across London over the last two days.
Acting Scotland Yard Commissioner Tim Godwin attacked the “gratuitous” violence and appealed directly to families.
He said: “I do urge now that parents start contacting their children and asking where their children are.
“There are far too many spectators who are getting in the way of the police operation to tackle criminal thuggery and burglary.
“I’m imploring that people within those communities actually start clearing the streets to enable my police officers to deal with the criminality that’s occurring in front of them.”
Mrs May said: “I think this is about sheer criminality. That is what we have seen on the streets. The violence we’ve seen, the looting we’ve seen, the thuggery we’ve seen — this is sheer criminality, and let’s make no bones about it.
“That’s why I say that these people will be brought to justice, they will be made to face the consequences of their actions and I call on all members of local communities to work with the police constructively to help the police to bring these criminals to justice.”
A total of 153 arrests were made after boroughs in north, south and east London fell victim to the first round of copycat rampages following trouble in Tottenham on Saturday.
Scenes of violence in Hackney, Lewisham and Peckham echoed those in other areas of the capital over the past two nights, with skirmishes between gangs of youths and police, prompted by a stop and search incident.
In Hackney, rioters, many wearing hoods and masks, were confronted by police lines spanning the streets, occasionally moving forward to push the groups back.
Officers in riot gear tried to control the situation, coming under fire from objects including chairs and pieces of wood.
South of the river in Peckham, teams of riot officers were seen charging at fleeing troublemakers after a major fire was started at a shop adjoining a bakery. A nearby bus was also set on fire while TV footage showed a trail of bins and a vehicle ablaze in Lewisham.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stephen Kavanagh said there would be a third more officers on the ground than there were last night, which was three times more than the previous night.
Meanwhile, police have asked that all London football clubs postpone their scheduled matches today to help them contain the disturbances.
The violence came after a peaceful protest on Saturday, which followed the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan, 29, on Thursday.