Police figures have revealed overall levels of violent crime were down at this year’s Notting Hill Carnival, despite total arrests rising compared to last year.
The number of stabbings, acid attacks and assaults on police officers at the world-famous street festival in west London were all lower this year than in 2017, according to Metropolitan Police data.
Recorded attacks on police officers also fell to 30 – down from 38 in 2017, when three officers were taken to hospital.
The figures led organisers to once again highlight the undue focus on criminality at Notting Hill Carnival, saying it “stifles” the event.
Carnival veteran and media commentator Maurice Mcleod said similar scrutiny is not seen with other iconic events, such as Reading Festival or Glastonbury.
“Sadly I think there’s still a habit to think about Notting Hill and only really think about crime,” he told HuffPost UK. “I don’t think carnival is a particularly violent or crime-ridden event.
“There are a lot of incidents each year but that’s because there are up to two million people attending. Would any similar sized event be so crime-free?”
The crime figures for the carnival released by police after the event show:
Number of stabbings: 2018 – 1 (non life-threatening); 2017 – 7 (all non life-threatening); 2016 – 15
Number of acid attacks: 2018 – 0; 2017 – 5 incidents in which injuries were “consistent with a corrosive-related liquid”
Number of officers injured: 2018 – 30; 2017 – 38
Number of offensive weapons seized by police: 2018 – 36; 2017 – no comparable data
Total numbers of officers deployed: 2018 – 13,020; 2017 – 12,573; 2016 – 12,025
Notting Hill Carnival arrests: 2018 – 373; 2017 – 301; 2016 - 454
It comes as the Metropolitan Police deployed a record number of officers at this year’s carnival and used knife arches for the first time.
Tough Section 60 stop and search powers were also employed to police the event in response to the recent increase in violent crime in the capital.
Mcleod, who is director of Media Diversified and vice chair of social policy research organisation Race on the Agenda, said increased stop and search could account for some of the rise in total arrests.
Commenting on wider misconception about levels of criminality at the event, he said there was a “misunderstanding among people who don’t go to carnival that it’s a big, free party for young black boys or young black people”.
“Throughout the year these young black boys are presented as crime infested and troublesome, and problematic, so why would bank holiday Monday be any different,” he added.
“As someone who goes to carnival every year it’s a really important, vibrant, beautiful part of London’s culture and even black people I know don’t go because there is this idea that there will be trouble or problems.
“It’s such a shame that we don’t celebrate it in the way that we should. I think it’s fabulous and we look at it in the wrong way.”
Carnival organiser Matthew Phillip, executive director of Notting Hill Carnival Ltd, said he couldn’t fault the media for reporting crime figures, but added he would like to see more context.
“If you compare it to other events – and I don’t want to criticise any other events – but carnival is statistically safer,” he said.
“If you think about the sheer number of people who come to carnival and enjoy themselves and have a nice time, it’s very safe.
“We had one stabbing this weekend. That’s one too many, we would like people to just come and be respectful and enjoy themselves.
“But when you have an event that has one million plus people there may be a number of arrests, however proportionally, I think it backs up well.”
Phillip said the focus on crime statistics “stifles carnival” because commercial sponsorship is harder to find if it is “always associated with violent crime and stabbings”.
Police chiefs said this year’s carnival had been one of the “smoothest and most efficiently-run”.
Commander Dave Musker, who was Gold Command at the event, said: “Notting Hill is one of the best-attended carnivals in the world and a highlight for London and particularly the communities of west London.
“Thousands of officers worked over the weekend to keep visitors safe and I am extremely proud of their dedication, professionalism and positivity; especially with the weather conditions on Sunday being particularly challenging.
“Without their hard-work and commitment, Notting Hill Carnival would not be able to go ahead.”