Supermarket police cells could be set up in shopping malls and town centres to hold shoplifters, drunks and other short-term offenders.
The short-term lockups could hold prisoners for up to four hours where they would be finger-printed, photographed and have a DNA sample taken.
They would allow beat bobbies to remove offenders from circulation without spending too long off the street themselves.
Offenders held in the cells could then either be released with a fine, or referred for further action or charging.
The so-called "supermarket cells" have already been piloted in Selfridges on Oxford Street.
The plans are outlined in the a review of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act as part of the first major shakeup of law-enforcement powers in more than 20 years.
The reform aims to cut red tape for frontline officers, improve efficiency and protect the rights of the public and were set out by Home Office Minister Tony McNulty.
They also include measures that could see police able to question children without their parents or other relatives being present.
The proposal still provides for relatives to attend interviews, but removes the need for that interview to be stalled until they arrive, settling instead for interim presence of an "appropriate adult" such as a social worker or community volunteer.