Sunday, October 20, 2013

Tackling Chaos In Magalluf

So, Calvià town hall has come up with a cunning plan to beef up security and to tackle delinquency in Magalluf next summer. For the record, these measures will include illuminating the beach at night (assuming this does not affect aircraft), closing the Punta Ballena to traffic at night, installing surveillance cameras and extra policing. The town hall also intends talking with the "responsible authorities" to deal with the matter of party boats and with businesses to address issues to do with bar crawls.

To say that the town hall has come in for a fair share of criticism this summer would be an understatement. Whether measures it has now announced will satisfy its critics and whether they will have any real effect will only be known next summer. At least it has reacted, though.

The problems in Magalluf are that well-known that they really don't require my repeating them. It is the fact that they are well-known, however, that has prompted the level of criticism aimed at the town hall as well as the kind of accusations made about local police which will only go away if future action is concerted and is seen to be applied with evenhanded rigour.  

For all this, the town hall, as with Palma and Llucmajor town halls, deserves some sympathy. The problems in Magalluf, Playa de Palma and Arenal are many, and not all of them are ones that town halls or local police forces are equipped to deal with or should even be expected to deal with; people falling off balconies comes into the latter category, organised criminality comes into the former.

These many problems can be defined in two main ways. One is that of what might be called anti-social behaviour (drunkenness and its attendant issues). The second is crime pure and simple. Anti-social behaviour may slip into crime when violence occurs but it is essentially, if not always in practice, containable by the different police bodies. A manifestation of such behaviour which could have become violent but which didn't was the way in which cars on Punta Ballena have been surrounded by drunk and offensive young tourists. The videos of this - and Javier Pierotti was the one who did most to draw attention to it - were shocking. The town hall will now close the street to traffic. It's a simple enough measure, thus proving that some incidents can be contained and even prevented.

It is the crime, though, which is by far the greater problem. It is one that the town halls cannot tackle. Only the National Police and Guardia Civil can, but even they are presented with obstacles. The most obvious criminality is that of the mugging prostitutes. These women, for the most part, ply their trade against their will. It has been shown by the arrest of gang organisers in Playa de Palma that women had been brought from Nigeria and forced into what they do. 

The police can round up these women, just as they can round up looky-looky men who are in Mallorca illegally, but doing anything with them is a very different matter. The impotence of police forces - the National Police, the Guardia and local police - is mirrored elsewhere on the island where problems are not as they are in Magalluf but are there nonetheless. Lock a looky-looky man up for the night, and then what? Fine him? How's he going to pay? Deport him? It's a very long, complex and expensive business. It is the same with the women in Magalluf or Playa de Palma. Many of the looky-looky men are exploited, most of the women are, and in the women's case, they have essentially been victims of human trafficking for subsequent exploitation. This is the prime criminality. Not what they themselves might do.

The success that the National Police had in arresting gang leaders involved in mugging prostitution in Playa de Palma has to be repeated. It is the only way to try and bring an end to all of this, and in Magalluf there is surely one very powerful business interest that will want it stamped out there.

Meliá are transforming Magalluf. They and their partners are investing heavily in bringing about a change to a resort which, even since Meliá's plans for it were revealed two years ago, seems to have deteriorated. This cannot be good for Meliá when the manifestations of crime are right there on the doorsteps of their new up-market creations.

Gabriel Escarrer, the boss of Meliá, apparently spent his summer holiday in a "chalet" in Magalluf. One wonders what he saw at night. Or maybe he didn't need to see. More than the small bar owners who complain about the looky-looky men and about alleged local police inaction or favouritism, it is Meliá which have the muscle to force improvements in Magalluf. Over to you, Sr. Escarrer.

* The video, "Magaluf Caos 2013", was the first posted by Javier Pierotti this summer.

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