Pressure for better police cover is starting to pay off for Portobello antiques dealers – but they say there is still much to be done. The traders have been incensed by cuts that left just four officers to patrol the area in pairs on Saturdays despite a recent rise in robberies, and demanded action on extra patrols.
Now, although they are angry that a public
meeting set for June 13, where they hoped to discuss their concerns
with police, was cancelled with little notice, it seems that more
officers are on the way. Kensington and Chelsea police have
increased the 'special contingent' in the market to six,
supplementing the regular safer neighbourhood team patrols. Also,
extra patrols operate in the early morning, when dealers arrive to
open up on Saturdays.
But many dealers feel they are still not
being given the attention needed for an area bringing in a huge
number of visitors on Saturdays, boosting the local and London-wide
Costas Kleanthous, chairman of the
Portobello Antiques Dealers' Association, said Portobello is one of
the most popular tourist spots in the capital, attracting more than
60,000 visitors on summer Saturdays and about 35,000 in winter.
The June 13 meeting was a regular public
meeting to discuss issues in the area overall, not specially set up
for antiques dealers, but Mr Kleanthous said it would have been a
good opportunity for them to air their views and it had not just
been postponed, but cancelled.
The next scheduled meeting is not due until
late October and most of that could be taken up with post-Notting
Hill Carnival discussions.
Kensington and Chelsea Community and Police
Engagement Group said the cancellation was because the borough
commander could not attend, given "unprecedented pressures on
policing during the summer" such as the Jubilee, Olympics and
But many traders wrote to the police to
express their anger, with one - who had been robbed in Portobello -
saying: "I really feel the police do not care. This was nasty - a
vicious knife attack, and there will be more of the same. So what
will you do about Portobello?"
Mr Kleanthous added that Portobello on
Saturday should be treated like big sporting events, such as
football matches, where although the clubs pay for policing inside,
officers are out in force in the area around.
"We do not expect the police to be our
personal bodyguards, but we expect them to police the street
properly," he said, adding: "We used to have 12 officers on a
Saturday, then down to eight and then four, now up to six, but it
is totally inadequate."
Chris Hickey, of Central Gallery, one of the
organisers of a special meeting on May 22 to discuss the policing,
said local ward councillor Carol Caruana was trying to arrange a
"Visibility is what we need to act as a
deterrent," he added. "Now they only have four police officers for
the whole street which stretches from Notting Hill Gate to Harrow
Road, probably about two miles long, with 60,000 people on a
Saturday coming down.
"An extra two are on now, but it is still
not enough, because they always have to work in pairs. We are
making progress but we have got to be patient. The police do a good
job but could be better if they had more resources. They don't seem
to prioritise this district - you go to a football match and the
street is jam-packed with lots of people and police, but here it is
like an event but isn't treated that way."
Pay for Policing
Mr Hickey has been given costs of 'buying
in' extra police cover should traders wish to pay for it, and feels
it could be feasible. Dealers are hoping a local businessman's
interest in funding extra CCTV coverage will be agreed with the
A Met Police spokesman told ATG: "We
continue to liaise with the market traders and address where
possible any concerns raised.
"Public meetings are regularly held and are
one forum used to air any community concerns. We remain serious in
our intention to listen to these concerns - regrettably at times
other policing issues facing the borough must take precedence.
"As a result of listening to the market
traders' concerns, a visible policing presence continues to be
maintained and is currently enhanced in and around the market area
But the Met Police have indicated to ATG
that fears of violent robberies are overblown.
Chief Inspector David Tait said: "While
there has regrettably been a slight increase in reports of burglary
from antique shops in Portobello Road over the last 12 months (two
between June 2010/11 and five between June 2011/12), none have
involved violence and thankfully no victims of crime were
"There has been no increase in offences of
commercial robbery either against local antique shops or market
traders in Portobello Road - and indeed there have been no such
offences reported over the past two years.
"We are, however, currently investigating a recent allegation of
robbery in which a jewellery trader was robbed in the local
vicinity as he walked back to his car."