Police try to reassure UAE tourists London safe

AFP
A police officer gives advice to a shopper in Oxford Street in central London on December 16, 2012
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A police officer gives advice to a shopper in Oxford Street in central London on December 16, 2012 (AFP Photo/Leon Neal)

London (AFP) - London police on Thursday tried to reassure UAE tourists that the city's main shopping streets were safe to visit, after the Gulf state's foreign ministry warned visitors to avoid certain areas.

The ministry produced the advice -- citing information from the Scotland Yard police headquarters -- after a series of attacks on wealthy Emiratis earlier this year.

Tourists were warned that Oxford Street, the main shopping thoroughfare, plus the neighbouring areas of Soho and Piccadilly, and Edgware Road -- often considered the heartland of Arab London -- were the "most dangerous areas".

The advice comes after three sisters from the United Arab Emirates were seriously injured in April in their central London hotel in a hammer attack.

Two weeks later an Emirati couple were robbed at gunpoint in a central London flat.

It warned citizens travelling to London to be aware of petty theft in certain areas, adding that they were not recommended for living in.

Visitors from the United Arab Emirates are told to "avoid as much as possible" a long stretch of Edgware Road.

But Scotland Yard tried to reassure Emirati tourists, who are highly valued by London's prestige boutiques and emporiums.

"There is absolutely nowhere in London which should be avoided," said commander Makhdum Chishty.

"We understand the incidents involving Emirati nationals earlier this year were shocking, but it was also very, very rare.

"London is one of the safest major cities in the world and crime continues to fall and overall crime in Westminster (central London district) is down by 16.4 percent.

"Police presence is high and post-Ramadan, with the traditional influx of visitors from the UAE, we reviewed our policing plans so we have a strong presence from our policing teams and officers working in plain clothes."

He said visitors could take steps to improve their personal safety, such as not carrying large amounts of cash in public, walking purposefully and keeping handbags close.

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