News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week June 5th to June 11th 2003.
COSTA'S SUMMER CRIME WAVE
Onslaught of tourists attracts thieves
By Oliver McIntyre
SUMMER TOURISM ON THE COSTA, WHICH TYPICALLY SEES MÁLAGA'S WINTER-TIME POPULATION OF 1.3 MILLION JUMP TO A HIGH OF AROUND THREE MILLION IN AUGUST, MEANS MORE PEOPLE ON THE BEACHES AND MORE TRAFFIC ON THE ROADS - AND MORE CRIME.
Nearly a third of all crimes committed in the province of Málaga last year occurred during July, August and September, according to data from Spain's Home Office. As populations boom in Benalmádena (80,000 in winter to 160,000 in summer), Torremolinos (52,000 to 300,000), Marbella (110,000 to 500,000) and Vélez-Málaga (45,000 to 200,000), criminals are attracted to the relatively easy targets posed by tourists in town for a little fun in the sun.
According to local police, the summer crime hike occurs mainly in relatively minor offences such as robbery on the beaches, car break-ins, and purse snatchings, as opposed to more serious and violent crimes, which tend to occur at the same rate throughout the year. Benalmádena Police Chief Lázaro Bañasco commented summer tourists tend to be more careless than residents, which serves to attract petty criminals to tourism hot spots.
The summer crime rate is especially notable on and around the beaches. When the Guardia Civil in Nerja last summer reinforced their patrols along the town's shoreline, one young purse snatcher was arrested 14 times. According to a Government study carried out in Nerja, purse snatchings are concentrated in tourist areas and the victims are most often foreign women.
TOO FEW COPS
In addition to the higher population and increased crime, the Costa also suffers from a lack of sufficient police coverage during the summer months. The National Police in the province of Málaga will receive 155 reinforcement officers this summer to provide extra support and vacation substitution for its 1,400-officer force. MP Miguel Ángel Heredia confirms that the number of reinforcements is less than in previous years, even as the crime rate in Málaga, at 33 incidents per 1,000 inhabitants, continues to be the highest in Andalucía and well above the national average of 24 per 1,000 inhabitants.
HIGH-TECH CASH DISPENSER THEFTS HIT VÉLEZ
Thief rigged mini-cam to spy on clients using ATMs
By Dave Jamieson
A 30-YEAR-OLD MAN SUSPECTED OF STEALING MONEY FROM CASH DISPENSERS HAS BEEN DETAINED IN TORRE DEL MAR.
Vélez-Málaga police, who believe the man is responsible for several scams, arrested him after he allegedly installed a mini-camera into a dispenser in Avenida de Andalucía. The camera, which was installed in a false fluorescent tube, would have permitted operations at the machine to be recorded, so revealing bank customers' PIN numbers.
The police say the suspect was working a fraud known as the 'Lebanese loop'. The so-called Lebanese loop is a tool that is inserted into the slot intended for the client's card and prevents the card being read by the machine. When victims insert a card and get no response, they assume the dispenser has retained the card or has broken down, and expect to be able to retrieve it from their bank later, falsely believing that nobody can use it meantime. However, once the customer has left, the fraudster pulls out the loop, complete with card, and using the PIN number observed by the camera, can withdraw cash from the account.
The accused man is thought to be Norwegian, although he may be of Eastern European origin, and police have been attempting to confirm his true identity. He was observed waiting outside a clothing shop opposite the cash dispenser, and fled on the arrival of the police, who believe he had completed fitting the camera and was waiting for the opportunity to insert his Lebanese loop.
TOURIST KILLED BY QUAD BIKE IN MARBELLA
By David Eade
A pedestrian was killed last week after being struck by a quad motorbike ridden by two youths at high speed along the central Avenida Ricardo Soriano in Marbella. The victim, who was described by police as a tourist, was using a pedestrian crossing, and the traffic light for the quad bike was red.
According to police reports, the driver of the quad bike lost control of the vehicle on impact with the victim, and the vehicle kept on travelling for some metres before finally hitting a traffic sign in the Calle San Juan Bosco. Both the driver and passenger were injured, one seriously.
The tragic death of the tourist has led to the demand by Marbella's Local Police chief, Rafael del Pozo, for legislation to control quad bikes on public roads. He stated that there has been a proliferation of these types of vehicles in Marbella, but that "the legislation is not very clear on the matter." The police chief believes it is necessary for the director general of Traffic to take the lead by issuing a specific regulation controlling quad bikes.
YARD DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN CLELAND HUNT
Family and Spanish National Police discount kidnapping theories
By David Eade
NEW SCOTLAND YARD HAS DENIED RECENT REPORTS IN THE BRITISH PRESS STATING THAT IT HAD JOINED IN THE HUNT FOR MISSING BRITON JOHN CLELAND.
Dan Maskell, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police's Specialist Crime Directorate, told CDSN that the force has not been approached by the Spanish police regarding Mr Cleland's disappearance.
Mr Maskell added that the initial request for the assistance of a UK Police Service would be made through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which would then pass it on to the appropriate force. He said the FCO is aware of the disappearance of John Cleland but has not received any request for assistance from Spanish authorities.
Although the Spanish Government's sub-delegate in Málaga recently suggested that kidnapping might be involved, both Mr Cleland's family and the National Police have discounted the theory. The family has suggested that Mr Cleland's disappearance may be related to his suffering a 'strong emotional crisis'.
MISSING TWO MONTHS
Mr Cleland, former director of the Royal Albert Hall, disappeared from his home in Benahavís on April 6. He left to visit the nearby Los Arqueros Golf Club and was then due to collect the Sunday newspapers before returning home for lunch. He failed to arrive at the golf course or the newsagents and has not been seen since.
At the time of his disappearance, 67-year-old Mr Cleland was driving a Chrysler Stratus registration number MA 2546 CM. Helicopter searches have been undertaken in remote areas, but neither Mr Cleland nor his car have been found. If anybody has any information on his whereabouts, they should contact Lina, the search co-ordinator, on 676 752 304.
CÓMPETA VOTERS UNEASY AFTER ELECTIONS
NEWS Staff Reporters
Foreigners in the Axarquía village of Cómpeta have expressed concern about the manner in which polling was carried out during the recent municipal elections, which resulted in some foreign residents being unable to exercise their right to vote. Henry Goodwin, whose name appeared on the PSOE's list of potential councillors, told CDSN that concerns began in the three local polling stations early in the morning of voting day, May 25.
Mr Goodwin, whose wife was an official at one of the stations, said that before the doors opened clarification was requested on exactly which documents were required for identification when a resident arrived to vote. Several were cited, including a passport and a driving licence with photo. Confusion arose, however, with the final example, which read, "and in the case of foreign residents, tarjeta extranjera." According to Mr Goodwin, this was interpreted by the PP and PSA officials as being an additional requirement, meaning foreign voters had to produce two documents, while Spanish voters only needed one. Mr Goodwin says the PSOE put in a formal complaint before polling booth doors opened to the public at 9.00.
However, Cómpeta's acting Deputy Mayor Jose López told CDSN that all four groups - PP, PSA, PA and PSOE - met and agreed on the interpretation of the voting requirements, which were written down and posted on the wall of the polling station before it opened to the public. According to Sr López, only the PSOE group later changed its mind, while the other three parties stuck with the original agreement. He said the Town Hall secretary then contacted the elections board, which confirmed that the initial agreement regarding the voting requirements was valid.
Mr Goodwin disagreed with Sr López's version of events, saying that when the first foreign residents were turned away for not having their residency cards, the matter was referred to the electoral authorities in Vélez-Málaga and in Málaga, who confirmed that a passport alone was adequate. According to Mr Goodwin, the ruling was resisted by the PP and the PSA, and the foreign residents in question were still not permitted to vote. He added that the regulations were inconsistently applied in different situations throughout the day.
Mr Goodwin said the local PSOE claims a "total misapplication of the rules from the beginning of the day, so denying some the right to vote." He also said some actions contravene European law, which says there must be no discrimination in the way voters are treated, by demanding two documents from some, but only one from others.
The PSOE in Cómpeta attempted to rally support for a petition of complaint last weekend, but the response was disappointing. It was not known if a formal complaint was submitted to the electoral authorities before the deadline for these earlier this week.
ECOLOGISTS PROTEST COSTA OIL DRILLINGS
Officials unmoved and oil exploration continues
By David Eade
THE SPANISH GOVERNMENT AND EUROPEAN UNION OFFICIALS HAVE RECENTLY DISCOUNTED PROTESTS BY ECOLOGISTS OVER OIL DRILLING ALONG THE COSTA.
In 2001, Spain granted the multi-national oil company Conoco permission to search for gas and petroleum in the Mar de Alborán off the Costa del Sol. The agreement gives the company the right to explore in four zones of the sea: Alboranero Bryce (San Roque to Estepona), Alboranero Cristóbal (Estepona to Marbella), Alboranero David (Marbella to Fuengirola) and Alboranero Eric (Fuengirola to Málaga).
The permits for the four zones have a life span of seven years. They require Conoco to invest 17.5 million euros in seismic and geological surveys as well as test drillings.
The decision to allow Conoco to prospect for petroleum and gas off the Costa del Sol has been condemned by Verdemar Ecologistas en Acción. In March the ecologist group laid formal complaints before the Ministry of Science and Technology as well as the European Union. However, both bodies have responded that, at this stage, Conoco is only undertaking studies, and an environmental impact study will have to be carried out before any drillings are permitted.
A spokesperson for Ecologistas en Acción, Antonio Muñoz, dismissed the Spanish Government and EU replies, stating that if petroleum is found, the environmental impact study will be a mere administrative matter. He added that the exploration programme could have a serious impact on people living on the Costa del Sol, "one of the most important tourist enclaves in Spain and Europe, and one of the main sources of revenue for the State coffers, which could be endangered."
LORD ROBERTSON VISITS ROTA
NEWS Staff Reporter
NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson last week visited the Rota base in Cádiz. Whilst there he inspected the vessels of the alliance that are currently involved in a major anti-terrorism exercise patrolling the Straits of Gibraltar.
During his visit, Lord Robertson paid tribute to the 62 Spanish military personnel who perished in the air crash in Turkey. Naval ships from Norway, Denmark and the USA anchored at the Rota base flew their flags at half-mast.
Lord Robertson was accompanied by various senior Spanish military officers and met the Italian Admiral Ferdinando Sanfelice, who is commanding the naval task force (STROG) that is patrolling the Straits zone.
HUNDREDS OF EXPATS LEARN THE LANGUAGE IN MIJAS
From beginner-level to 'perfeccionamiento'
By Oliver McIntyre
THREE HUNDRED STUDENTS 'GRADUATED' LAST WEEK AFTER COMPLETING THE SPANISH LANGUAGE COURSE FOR FOREIGNERS OFFERED BY MIJAS TOWN HALL'S UNIVERSIDAD POPULAR.
Turnout was strong for the ceremony, held at the Las Lagunas Casa de la Cultura, where town councillor María del Carmen Peinado handed out diplomas to students young and old from countries as far ranging as Rumania, Russia, England and even China. Each of the students had completed a seven-month course in one of four skill levels the programme offers: first year, second year, third year and 'perfeccionamiento', as a group of English and Norwegian Mijas residents (all third-year students) told CDSN.
CLASSES 'VERY GOOD'
One member of the group, Englishwoman Lynn Nokes, explained that, while there are students of a wide variety of nationalities, "the majority are English and German." To which her Norwegian classmate Nils Tellesbo quickly quipped, "So it's an interesting mixture!" The group of mostly middle-aged students laughed at this, but got more serious when asked how they felt about the quality of the classes. "Very good," they said, almost in unison, making a point to single out their teacher, Isabel, for special praise. "But don't tell everyone," half-joked Sandra Garner, another Englishwoman in the group. "The classes already fill up too fast."
At just 12 euros a month, it's perhaps no surprise that the next session of classes, which begins in October, is already booking up.
NERJA CAVES FESTIVAL PROGRAMME ANNOUNCED
NEWS Staff Reporter
The programme for the 44th Nerja Caves Festival has been officially announced. The prestigious music and dance festival, to be held from July 22 to 26, will open with a Flamenco Night, with José Menese offering a programme of traditional flamenco and other Spanish dance styles. The following night is given to a visit from the Los Angeles Jubilee Singers, who will perform a programme of traditional and contemporary gospel and spiritual songs under the direction of Albert MacNeil. On July 24 and 25, the Argentinean dancer Julio Bocca, along with Ballet Argentino, will present 'Boccatango', a dance compilation based on music from his country. The final night of this year's festival will be an Opera Gala featuring the baritone Juan Pons and the Philharmonic Orchestra of Málaga, conducted by Kamal Khan.
Each concert will begin at 22.00, and tickets, which for the first time have a common price of 45 euros, will, as usual, be as difficult to obtain as gold dust!