Yesterday, the Metropolitan Police tweeted about a 1 kilo heroin haul they'd made in Catford, positioning it as a pre-emptive drug strike ahead of this weekend's Notting Hill Carnival. As we wrote yesterday, this is yet another example of the disproportionate policing of the event, and also just completely bizarre: Catford is literally the other side of London from Notting Hill, and nobody goes to Carnival to buy or use heroin. The two things have nothing to do with each other.
Which brings us back to that bias. Carnival is persistently associated with crime and, specifically, drug-related crime by both police and certain sections of the British media – something Stormzy pointed out yesterday, tweeting, "How many drugs did you lot seize in the run up to Glastonbury or we only doing tweets like this for black events?"
There is, of course, criminality at Carnival; you have to expect some disorder when you squeeze 1.5 million drunk people into an area not nearly big enough to contain 1.5 million drunk people. But the point is: Carnival gets a disproportionate amount of attention for this issue compared to other big summer events which have similar – or, in many cases, higher – crime figures.
Just to put it into perspective, here's how a few of the UK's biggest summer festivals measure up to Carnival (when figures are scaled up to match the number of attendees), which, last year, was attended by around 1.5 million people across the weekend and saw 450 arrests, 169 of which were drug-related.
– In 2016, Glastonbury hosted around 135,000 people. Official figures from the Avon and Somerset Constabulary show that 3,911 grams of illegal substances were seized. That's the equivalent of 43 kilos being seized at Carnival. While the tabloids had a field day denouncing Carnival, you'd have been hard pressed to find a front page using these numbers to portray Glastonbury in a bad light.
– Last year's Bestival on the Isle of Wight saw a stunning £175,000 worth of drugs seized, an enormous figure considering the relatively modest attendance of 50,000. There were 40 arrests, 30 of which were drug-related. Scale that crowd up to Carnival numbers and you'd have seen 900 drug-related arrests.
– At Boomtown, located near Bristol, £134,000 worth of drugs were seized from an audience of just 46,000. This would be roughly the equivalent of a £5 million haul at Carnival.
– Chelmsford's V Festival saw 43 arrests last year, 27 of which were drug-related. Roughly 170,000 were in attendance. There would have to be 238 drug-related arrests at Carnival for it to measure up. Despite the figures, Essex Police seemed pleased. Chief Constable Carl O'Malley said: "The innovative tactics made the festival an uncomfortable environment for criminals to operate in. I want to thank all officers who worked extremely hard over the weekend and liaised closely with the organisers, security team and retailers to ensure festival-goers enjoyed a safe event. We look forward to V-Festival 2017."
– 137 arrests were made at last year's Creamfields The majority of this figure were for drug-related offences. Given that only 70,000 were in attendance, there would have to be 2,935 arrests (mostly drug-related) at Carnival to measure up.
– Latitude festival, which is held in Henham Park near Southwold, has an attendance of roughly 35,000 and was awarded "Best Family Festival" at the 2012 UK Festival Awards. Last year, eight people were arrested for drug-related offences, which doesn't seem that much, but if you scale up attendance to Carnival levels, you're left with 342 drug-related arrests – almost twice the amount of last year's Notting Hill figures.