Police say they can't cope with scale of carnival

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The Independent Online

The Notting Hill Carnival has grown "beyond the resources of the police", the Metropolitan Police admitted yesterday.

The Notting Hill Carnival has grown "beyond the resources of the police", the Metropolitan Police admitted yesterday.

Assistant Commissioner Ian Johnston said Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, should now consider action to scale down the carnival. He said: "The Mayor should consider taking the decision about how long it lasts, who takes part and what area it covers. He is the man interested in organising large-scale events for London.

"After this year's events we would like to see some modification to the carnival. It has grown so much in recent years it is time for us to reflect where we are going with it."

Mr Johnston added: "We don't want to see the carnival stopped altogether but finishing it earlier could be considered, as many crimes do tend to happen in the hours of darkness."

Mr Johnston was speaking days after two men were murdered at the carnival, giving rise to allegations that a "softly-softly" approach by police had allowed crimes to go unchecked.

Carnival organisers said earlier yesterday that they are to consider starting next year's event earlier in the day to reduce the risk of late-night violence.

A meeting later this month will also consider plans to double the number of stewards at the carnival and reduce the risk of crushing by extending the processional route to a wider area. The idea of a morning start next year was welcomed as a "very sensible suggestion" by a senior Scotland Yard officer who denied accusations that police officers had been told to take a soft approach to crime at Europe's biggest street party.

Mr Johnston said arrests at the two-day event had increased by 84 per cent on the previous year and that recorded crime had gone up by 27 per cent. He said: "If you look at the number of arrests we made this year ... it doesn't seem like a strategy of non-intervention. There certainly wasn't a hands-off policy."

The Metropolitan Police Federation chairman, Glen Smyth, claimed officers at the carnival were told not to make arrests for fear of sparking riots and that drug dealers were allowed to operate with impunity. Official figures recorded 19 stabbings and 129 arrests among crowds estimated by organisers at up to 2.5 million, policed by 7,500 officers.

Abdul Bhatti, 28, died in hospital after being beaten by a gang at 7.30pm on Monday. Greg Watson, 21, was fatally knifed at 10pm the same night.

Yesterday, Steph Harwood, a carnival organiser, said next year's event may be moved forward to prevent revellers partying late into the night when the most serious crimes occur. The 200 stewards this year may also need to be increased.

However, ambulance chiefs said that this year's carnival had been the safest for many years in terms of people in need of medical treatment.

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