LONDON – With calm returning to Britain’s damaged cities, residents of some London neighborhoods on Friday complained that police seemed unwilling or unprepared to take on rioters who burned cars and looted shops on their streets.

Officials said that about 1,700 arrests had been made nationwide, but Scotland Yard added that the number was “changing all the time.”

Those appearing in court included resentful youths from low-cost housing estates, middle-class opportunists and children out for thrills and free goods.

Londoners who endured the worst of the violence on Monday and Tuesday nights had mixed views of police action.

Nick Palmer, a self-employed builder, said police stopped the bus he was on in West London late Monday and told passengers to evacuate because the road was closed due to rioting.

He said the rioters simply avoided the police. “I passed a brick wall that had been smashed to provide them with missiles to throw at windows. I picked up a brick and a stick, and with my dog marched through a wall of young thugs coming towards me, looking as mean as I could,” he said. Police did not intervene, he said.

Charles Donovan, a 37-year-old writer, said a woman in upscale Notting Hill told him of overhearing police in the street below asking each other where central London’s Trafalgar Square was.

Among those arrested Friday was a suspect in the killing of Richard Mannington Bowes, 68, who was beaten by rioters Monday night as he tried to put out a fire. He died in a hospital Friday, bringing the number of fatalities to five.