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With Jersey City, N.J., suddenly canceling its Caribbean Festival this weekend, today's rolling parade and party in and around Franklin Park has become the place to be.
"For one day you can experience what the Caribbean culture is all about. Black, white or Chinese come to this event," said carnival supporter Michael Smith.
What sets it apart, the Trinidad native promises, is the food, music and costumes.
The festival parade begins today at 1 p.m. and keeps rolling until 6 p.m. through Roxbury and Dorchester. Other official and unofficial festivities continue through tomorrow.
Because organizers in Jersey City failed to come up with a $11,000 license fee, Boston is hosting the only Caribbean festival of its kind in the east, which has Hub police on high alert.
Police are rolling out video cameras, borrowing the state police helicopter and importing two constables from Northern Ireland to target toublemakers.
"Some (gang members) use the cover of the crowd to seek revenge," said Boston police Superintendent Daniel P. Linskey at a police planning session yesterday.
"We're concerned but confident we have a good plan in place," said Boston police Commissioner Edward Davis, who added all video will be studied after the event.
In an international twist, Davis has invited two crowd-control specialists from Northern Ireland to add to the blanket coverage.
"It's like I'm coming home," said Belfast Assistant Chief Duncan McCausland, who said Boston helped his department years ago with community policing.
"We're going to help with crowd control and look at best practices," he added. "Call it 'hands across the sea."'

Police arrest dozens before annual festival

Caribbean event today has violent history

A man was taken into custody from a Dorchester address. The sweep netted 56 people. (George Rizer/globe staff)

By Maria Cramer

Globe Staff / August 23, 2008

Nearly 100 Boston police officers fanned out across the city yesterday and arrested dozens of suspected gang members and alleged criminals as part of an aggressive preemptive strike against violence at today's Caribbean Festival, a cultural event that has often been marred by shootings and stabbings.

Officers from the gang and fugitive units, as well as several districts, hit three-deckers and apartment buildings all over the city, looking for people who had defaulted on warrants for crimes including shoplifting, rape of a child, and assault and battery with a deadly weapon.
The alleged perpetrators, police said, are people they believe might use the festival to settle old scores.
"The whole point is that 99 percent of the people who go to the festival want to go to have fun," said Sergeant Detective Brian Albert, who heads the Boston fugitive unit. "The problem is that 1 percent who want to cause trouble."
The sweep, which netted 56 people, was sparked by lessons from past festivals and the recent violence at the West Indian festival in Hartford, where one man was killed and six others - including two children - were injured.
Today's festival, which is officially called the Caribbean American Carnival, draws hundreds of thousands of people from around the city and as far as Canada and Trinidad, according to organizers.
The 35-year-old event, which has roots in African tradition, fea tures children dressed in colorful costumes who march in the festival's signature event, the parade through Dorchester. The anointed king and queen of the carnival strut down the streets in feathered headdresses and elaborate, sequined costumes with themes like "The Four Seasons" and "New Year's Eve."
But the annual event also draws gang members and criminals who go there to find and attack their enemies, and then disappear into the crowds. The feuds also unfold violently at parties that are not officially connected to the festival but are traditionally scheduled around it.
Last year, there were four stabbings in one hour over the festival weekend, police said yesterday. A dozen people were shot and police arrested four people for gun possession.
This year, police obtained "stay away" orders against 23 juveniles with violent criminal records that bar them from going to the festival.
Shirley Shillingford , president of the carnival, said the efforts are necessary.
"When you think about the amount of money that people put into paying for their costumes and the amount of work that goes into putting together this event, it would be really pathetic to see even one person come out and do anything that will give a bad image to the carnival that we work so hard to put on," she said. "It takes a drop of poison to contaminate a whole bucket of water."
At about 5 a.m. yesterday, officers from the gang unit and the fugitive unit began the operation, which Albert said would last until at least 8 p.m.

Albert said officers were divided into two teams and focused their search in Mattapan and Dorchester. They drove to the addresses on their list in unmarked cars, quickly throwing on "fugitive unit" jerseys when they arrived at each house.
Two hours into their effort, the officers had not found any of the suspects, but by 8 a.m., one of the teams nabbed a Dorchester 19-year-old wanted for assault and battery on a police officer.
"That's a good one to get," said Albert.
The goal, Albert said, was to keep as many of them as possible in custody until Monday, when they would be brought to court for their arraignments.
Police spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll said officials anticipated that a vast majority of the people arrested on warrants would be held throughout the weekend because they had failed to show up for their initial court date.
The sweep also led to the discovery of three guns at different addresses.
Today, when the parade kicks off at about 1 p.m., hundreds of police officers will patrol the route and areas around it.
Many will be equipped with video cameras so they can film gang members - an effort police have used before but have expanded for today's festival.
The idea is to be as obvious as possible so gang members know they are being watched, said Superintendent Daniel Linskey, during a meeting yesterday with captains and deputy superintendents at police headquarters.
"Let them know we know who they are," he said.
Police will also use the cameras to record any crimesand use the footage to arrest perpetrators later.
The tactic will take the pressure off an officer to make an immediate arrest at the same time he or she is trying to control crowds or keep tensions under control.
A State Police helicopter will again patrol from above with a video camera that can zoom so closely into the crowds that police watching from a command post can see faces and whether anyone is holding a weapon.
Jorge Martinez, executive director of Project Right in Grove Hall, said he has no problem with police taping the crowds as long as civilians can also act as watchdogs of police activity.
"As long as [police] are filming in a public place, they have a right to," he said.
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