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Antique dealers in Portobello Road have been targeted by armed robbers

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But it seems that any extra measures will probably have to be funded by local firms.

While there is a longstanding problem with theft, recent attacks are thought to be the work of a ruthless gang. Traders have been followed and threatened by robbers brandishing a machete on occasion, and such incidents are becoming commonplace.

Christopher Hickey of Central Gallery and ward councillor Carol Caruana organised a meeting on Tuesday, May 22, so traders could raise concerns with the police.

The results were described as very positive. A public meeting with the police is now mooted for June 13 at Lighthouse West London in Lancaster Road, near Ladbroke Grove Tube.

Police funding cuts have already led to the number of officers patrolling Portobello on a Saturday being reduced, with risks of further cuts if major sporting events need extra cover.

Costas Kleanthous, chairman of the Portobello Antiques Dealers' Association, said: "I understand they only have four police, who have to patrol in pairs. A few years back we had a dozen police patrolling the street, and two years back it was cut back to eight, but I was horrified to hear there were only four now.

"This is absolutely appalling. The real need for policing is in the antiques section where you have small items of very high value."

The May 22 meeting heard that there was a chance to "buy in" extra police presence on the street, with businesses covering the cost.

Cllr Caruana told ATG: "I am writing to the borough commander to see if this is a possibility. If it is it would be a wonderful way of protecting the antique dealers.

"The problem they have is in the early morning when they arrive, from about five onwards - that's when they feel most threatened - and again at 3-4pm when they leave. When they arrive in the morning that is actually the night-time police, a different shift, but if traders were 'buying in' they could stipulate the times."

Mr Hickey said a local businessman was interested in sponsoring CCTV cameras. It would have to be approved by Kensington and Chelsea council planners.

Cllr Rock Feilding-Mellen, the council's Cabinet Member for Civil Society, said: "We have recently decided to upgrade our CCTV system. In the future we will be using a mix of the latest fixed and mobile cameras, possibly with automatic number plate recognition software, and we'll be deciding the locations of these cameras based on police advice and intelligence.

He added: "We are also very open to talks with any local businesses interested in funding special cameras wired into our system."

The Met Police did not respond to ATG's request for a comment.