Summer has most certainly arrived – the sun is out, the resort is bustling and the beaches are packed. But just because you’re on holiday and relaxed do not let your guard down. Sadly crime happens everywhere and Benidorm is no exception, but if you use your common sense and keep your wits about you, then you should have an incident free time here.
The Latin saying ‘praemontius, praemunitus’ is very apt and loosely translated means ‘forewarned is forearmed’… if you know about a problem in advance, you will be able to deal with it. Awareness of a situation, especially a risky one prepares you to handle it should the situation arise.
Two things to avoid here at all costs are the pea or potato men and cocktail sellers – unfortunately both are rife here. There is much anger – from both the British and Spanish, that the police appear to do very little to crackdown on these practices, but the best thing is to not engage with them as they are organized criminal gangs.
Lorenzo Martinez – Councillor for Beaches and Security has just announced that the Town Hall are taking on another five beach police to re-enforce the ten already there. What he needs to ensure is that they do not all go for lunch at 1pm – as currently appears to be happening and so when the cocktail sellers tend to come out in force.
As tempting as they look – huge plastic tumblers with ice, fresh fruit and a straw, do not be enticed to buy one. They are made on the floor in the most unhygienic conditions and I wouldn’t even like to think what goes into them. If you are on the Levante beach, where most of them operate, you are never more than 50 metres from a bar along the promenade.
There is no excuse to buy from these peddlers, risking your health and they are most certainly not from any of the bars as they sometimes claim – it is illegal to sell anything on the beaches. The vendors walk up and down between the sunbed, holding a tray full, approaching holidaymakers with the ‘cocktails’, charging around €5 a go. Never ever be tempted!
The pea men, sometimes referred to as the potato men operate at busy tourist spots. A group gathers around a man – occasionally a woman, who will be standing with a cardboard box and 3 potato halves on a board. A pea will be placed under one, shuffled and you have to guess which one the pea is under. You place a bet and can double your stake – easy, especially as you see one of the crowd do just that.
However, they are part of the gang as will most of the others gathered around and by shouting or clapping draw the attention of passers by, who they encourage to stop. You will also notice that there are lookouts, who stand at the street corners or on the road, looking out for the police and whistle when the blue light of a car is spotted, quickly dispersing..they even operate in the evenings.
If you do happen to become a victim of crime whilst here then you must report it to the police – ideally at the SATE office. Currently the vast majority of British holidaymakers do not for various reasons, mostly as they don’t think it will be of any benefit and if they have had money pickpocketed, accept they will not get it back.
However, this means that figures quoted by the police are totally inaccurate and the people continue to commit these crimes. Do not walk around with lots of money in your pocket – I have heard of men in particular lose hundreds, you really shouldn’t be walking around with that much in your pocket.
If a criminal case does proceed to court – which can be a long time after the incident and you are needed as a witness, your flights and a translator will be paid for to enable you to attend. Last year one resident here, Des Bellamy-Wright – husband of Wayne aka Miss Levi had his mobile pinched. He reported it to the police, identified the assailant from a mugshot and over a year later the case came to court. He attended, gave evidence and the thief was handed a 9 month prison sentence. Des never got his mobile back but was satisfied that justice had been done so it really does make a difference.
Unfortunately, the current SATE office is located on what most consider the wrong side – at the very end of the Levante beach in the Old Town. But after years of promises to move it, starting back in 2015 – and a halfhearted attempt last year, I am delighted that work has recommenced at long last - although there is no indication when it will be open.
The new SATE office will be located in the Rincon de Loix, opposite the Flash hotel where the current Tourist Information Office is. “SATE” – The Foreign Tourist Assistance Service is a police department, with the objective of offering help and assistance to those who become a victim of crime. Tourists who attend are given help in reporting a crime, cancelling credit cards, contacting the Consulate, calling their insurance company in the UK and access to free telephone calls and Internet facilities.