Merseyside Police is giving a warm welcome to the thousands of visitors heading to the Aintree festival this week (April 4 - 6) and offering advice to make sure they have a great time and enjoy the event safely.
The Grand National is one of the biggest events in the sporting calendar and consistently attracts more than 150,000 people during the three-day festival.
Despite the attendance figures, the festival has an excellent record of deterring crime and anti-social behaviour and the force has been working with the racecourse and the Jockey Club, local councils, Mersey Travel and other partners to plan the event with public safety as a priority.
As a result, racegoers should expect to undergo a series of security checks, including bag and transport searches and badge checks. Only pre-booked vehicles will be allowed onto the Aintree site and there are restrictions on parking around the course which will be rigorously enforced.
Event Commander for Merseyside Police, Superintendent Louise Harrison said: "Year upon year, the Aintree festival is a fantastic occasion and a real opportunity to showcase everything great about Merseyside. It continually attracts hundreds of thousands of people- and TV viewers- from across the world and I have no doubt that this year’s festival will be no exception.
"We want people to have a safe and enjoyable time and make sure their day at the races is memorable for all the right reasons, so we are offering some tips and advice to ensure everybody’s day out runs smoothly.
"Racegoers can help us by giving themselves extra time to get to the racecourse, arriving in good time and limiting the number of bags and other items they bring into the course. They should also expect to undergo the normal security checks, including bag and transport searches and badge checks. Only pre-booked vehicles will be allowed onto the Aintree site and there are restrictions on parking around the course which will be rigorously enforced.
“Co-operating with the security staff will ensure the queues are kept to a minimum and people can be in their places in plenty of time for the first race. The security checks are there for everyone's benefit and the more co-operative and patient people are, the quicker the security and ticket staff can get people in.
"Merseyside Police constantly reviews its staffing levels for any large-scale public events and as per normal racegoers can expect to see high visibility policing across the three days of the event.
"There will also be a visible armed presence again this year, and I want to reassure visitors that this is not in response to any direct threat aimed at the festival but just as reassurance for the thousands of people who will come through the gates over the three days.
"I would also like to take this opportunity to ask racegoers to spare a thought for local residents, who accept the huge numbers of people visiting the area with very good grace every year. We ask that visitors show them the same courtesy and treat the area with respect. Officers on duty will be taking a common sense approach but I want to make it clear that anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated.
“Throughout the three days, staff and officers from the mounted section will have their own stand at the course dedicated to our 'Stand Tall' campaign, launched to generate support to keep police horses on our streets. Racegoers are encouraged to come and say hello and learn more about the campaign. We’ll have our giant wings which make a great photo opportunity and the police horses will be visiting at regular intervals."
Anyone thinking of using forged tickets or badges should be warned that there are comprehensive checks in place to stop them getting into the course and they are at risk of being arrested. Operations are also in place in the lead up to the event to prevent sales of counterfeit badges or tickets and target offenders.
If you buy a forgery, you are supporting an illegal trade and handing your money over to criminals. If you think you have unwittingly bought a forged ticket, or have information on where they are being sold, please call Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
Alcohol consumption and anti-social behaviour
Alcohol related disorder will not be tolerated either on the course or in the surrounding area. Local pubs and off-licenses will also be monitored to ensure people who are already drunk are not being served more alcohol.
We also know local people are still worried about people urinating in the street and we can reassure people that officers will be dealing with the problem robustly and offenders can expect to receive fixed penalty notices as a minimum if they are caught.
Too much alcohol also lowers people's awareness levels, making them more likely to fall victim to crime. Drinking sensibly will help prevent you or your winnings becoming a potential target for criminals.
Race goers can fall victim to petty crime, particularly pick pocketing. To help make sure you don’t fall victim remember the following:
-Don't bring unnecessary bags to the event
-Don't leave your property, including bags and mobile phones unattended and keep valuables close at all times
-Keep wallets and purses out of sight
-Remain vigilant and be aware of those around you when placing bets and collecting winnings
-Report any suspicious or criminal activity to officers in and around the course
Racegoers are being advised to plan their journey in advance and give themselves extra time to make their journey.
The force has been working closely with a range of partners to make sure people are aware of their travel options and the restrictions on parking around the course. During the meeting the roads around the racecourse can become congested and some are closed to traffic.
Those who do travel by car are advised to car share where possible or get a friend or relative to drop them within a walkable distance from the course, and leave plenty of time to get into the event for the start of the racing programme each day.
Parking facilities close to the course are severely limited and there is an extensive "No Waiting" area around it. Traffic will be strictly controlled and enforcement carried out in line with the security operation and taking into account the needs of local residents in the surrounding streets.
Aintree railway station is one minute walk from the main entrance to the racecourse. Regular trains will be running on all three days to and from Liverpool and from Ormskirk. Racegoers are advised to check travel details before they leave home.
Regular traffic updates will also be broadcast by local radio stations including Radio City, Capital FM, BBC Radio Merseyside and Heart North West.
More information can also be found on the official Aintree website: http://aintree.thejockeyclub.co.uk/