The Metropolitan Police is considering arming officers on foot patrols to prevent violence in areas where gang activity is likely, it has emerged.
Met commissioner Cressida Dick told a London Assembly hearing that the move would only be used in extreme circumstances and, according to a separate statement from the force, “for short periods of time”.
The force has denied the move would become routine.
It comes as the number of killings in the capital has reached 127 – up on the 116 seen in the whole of 2017.
If implemented, the move would mark a slight shift in British policing which is mostly unarmed, with armed officers usually patrolling in vehicles.
Those armed and on foot usually target areas identified as terrorist targets.
A memo seen by the BBC revealed the idea was discussed internally as a potential method in dealing with the recent spate in violent crime and deaths in London.
Such measures, if adopted, would be “based on an informed and reliable intelligence picture of where gang activity is likely”, and would be done in “full consultation with the local policing borough”.
“The purpose of any such initiative must be to enhance public and unarmed officer safety, and to improve not hinder community confidence,” it read.
Assistant Commissioner Sir Stephen House said in a statement: “We are not considering routine deployments of armed officers in our communities.
“As part of our response to the increase in violent crime in London we are examining how our armed officers can provide extra support and augment other units, either in response to a serious assault, or to be deployed to areas where we have intelligence that serious violence is imminent.
He added that any deployments would be for a “limited time only” as he said consultation on the issue was in its early stages.
“We will continue to work closely with a range of stakeholders as we discuss operational options in the fight against violence to help protect communities.”
As part of this, the Met has confirmed it contacted a community group for initial views on how armed patrols could impact communities, the BBC said.
But the suggestion has not been without backlash, as Labour member for the London Assembly, Len Duvall, called for Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to step in.
The former chair of the Met Police Authority said: “Now the police with guns are in cars, in central London because of the terrorist threat, or for a specific operation.
“Police walking around a council estate with guns is a crazy thing. It creates a different atmosphere. It does not make sense and has not been thought through.”
He added: “Sadiq Khan should step in and stop this pending a full consultation.”
Khan’s office later said in a statement: “The mayor is crystal clear that armed officers on London’s streets must be the exception and cannot become the norm.”
Labour peer Lord Harris said the move would be seen as “provocative”.
“It will inspire fear rather than reassurance, it will hinder community confidence and do little in itself to reduce the number of violent incidents,” he told the House of Lords.