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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 August 2005, 09:09 GMT 10:09 UK
Carnival 'not a bombing target'
By Marie Jackson
BBC News, London

"A sordid, sleazy nightmare that has become synonymous with death."

Police at Notting Hill Carnival in 2001
After the bombings, could this 2001 picture of unity be recaptured?

That was the late Daily Mail columnist Lynda Lee-Potter's verdict on the Notting Hill Carnival following a stabbing in 1991.

Over the years crime and carnival have been shackled together by the media and the August Bank Holiday event has struggled to be defined by anything other than arrest numbers and crime figures.

And three carnival-related deaths in less than five years has not helped to alter perceptions of west London's world-famous event.

In 2000, delivery driver Greg Watson, 21, was stabbed to death with a kitchen knife in what was described in court as a "senseless act of violence".

'Business as usual'

In the same year, 28-year-old graduate Abdul Bhatti was murdered after a group of 50 youths went on a rampage through the carnival.

And just last year, at an unofficial party less than a mile from the carnival route, Mark Subaran, 27, was shot dead.

"The reason why there's an association between carnival and crime is because of history. Over the last four years this has been cleaned up," said carnival chairman Chris Mullard.

"This year it looks as if there's very little negative coverage. In a sense we have got bigger things to worry about, like terror."

Westminster Borough Commander Chris Allison
There is no intelligence whatsoever to suggest carnival is a target
Westminster Borough Commander Chris Allison

In the wake of the July bomb attacks on London, the challenge to reassure carnival goers and ensure public safety will be tougher than ever.

The message from the Metropolitan Police and carnival organisers is clear though - it is business as usual.

Westminster Borough Commander Chris Allison, who is heading up the policing operation, said: "Events of the 7 and 21 July are at the top of everyone's minds.

"Nothing has come through to suggest carnival would be cancelled. There is no intelligence whatsoever to suggest carnival is a target."

And the policing operation appears to reflect that - with 10,000 police officers deployed - the same as last year - and days leave cancelled across the board, as usual.

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For the past two months, officers have been involved in an intelligence-led operation targeting likely trouble makers and suspected drug dealers. This will be stepped up on the days of the carnival.

Eight people have already been arrested.

Public reassurance, said Commander Allison, would come from 500 high visibility British Transport Police officers searching trains and platforms - a 50% increase on recent years.

"Notting Hill Carnival is a very important event in the social calendar and we are intent for it to go ahead. All those involved in organising the event and the Met are doing everything we can to make this as safe as possible," he said.

ADVICE TO CARNIVAL GOERS
Leave valuables at home
Come on a full stomach
Be vigilant
Report anything suspicious

Mr Mullard said: "We would be fools if we were not concerned but we have taken a considerable number of steps to produce a creative and safe carnival."

But will regular carnival goers see it that way?

Chris Boothman, board member of London Notting Hill Carnival Ltd, said there was no reason why they should not.

"We are not expecting anything out of the ordinary, not expecting any trouble."

'Buoyant spirit'

Mr Mullard said: "I think that people are demonstrating London is a multicultural city. We have got to stand up and enjoy multiculturalism.

"We are expecting in excess of one million. There's a very buoyant spirit."

There had been concerns among organisers that police would be deployed to the mayor's Caribbean Showcase - a secondary event for families in Hyde Park - leaving fewer to police the main event in west London.

But Commander Allison dismissed concerns, describing it as a small event that will be policed by the mayor's stewards and Royal Parks Police.

The main message for the day, he said, was for carnival-goers to stay vigilant and report anything suspicious.


SEE ALSO:
Carnival troublemakers targeted
23 Aug 05 |  London
Carnival gang jailed for murder
28 Jul 05 |  London


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