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Policia Local patrol car in Benidorm
With the arrival of the Summer season, Avibe - the Association of Travel Agencies and APTUR - Association of Tourist Apartments have called for increased police presence in the town.... particularly in the English quarter.

As with all holiday destinations Europe wide, the mass arrival of toursits attracts pickpockets and organized crime gangs. Cities such as London, Madrid and Venice have the problem year round but with the current economic climate the problems appear even more prevalent.

Many businesses and residents have been complaining for some time about the situation in Benidorm and the local English press have echoed this concern in recent months. Since the long awaited eviction of predominantly East European squatters back in March from an illegally occupied building on Calle Lepanto, the situation has not improved as they just moved to another area.

Pea Men scam in action on Avd Mediterraneo
One of the well known organized scams which occur in Benidorm are the "pea men".... you will find these groups along the Avd Mediterraneo. The method is as follows: a small group of "tourists" gather around a man with a cardboard box - usually the outer packaging from a cigarette carton with 3 potato halves on a board. A pea will be placed under one then shuffled around. A "tourist" - who is actually part of the gang will bet say 20 euros that he can guess where the pea is... and suprise suprise, he is correct and doubles his money. He will then encourage others to do the same commenting how easy it is - never ever join in - you WILL lose your money. The crowd gathered around the pea man is probably made up of at least 4 gang members, but it is instinct to stop and watch when you see a small crowd gathered... DO NOT! Whilst you are concentrating on what is happening you will most probably have your pockets lightened of your wallet too. They also have look out gangs standing on the street corners, usually young men who whistle if they see a police car approaching and the gang breaks up quickly. I have personally seen the gangs arrive and split up into groups.. and trust me, they don´t pull up in clapped out old bangers but top of the range Mercedes and four wheel drives! This isn´t solely a problem in Benidorm - only this morning on the BBC 1 programme "Crimewatch Roadshow" they featured peamen and con artists working in London!

Another scam is for 2 relatively attractive girls to be sitting in the hotel reception studying a map .... when a fresh influx of holiday makers arrive - usually a group of men they will approach and start asking you a question.... and being men you will be only too pleased and flattered that they are asking. Whilst you are distracted the second girl will be helping herself to your belongings. You may think that you are invincible and will know but trust me, these girls are professional and you won`t feel a thing!

Additional support from National Police
The town has been identified as a hot spot for organized crime gangs over the coming months - the gangs even arrive by van from as far afield as Alicante! The PP party at the Town Hall have denounced that at times there were only 5 police that patrol the entire town with a maximum of 2 cars are on patrol at the same time - this was especially evident during the recent conflict between the Town Hall over cuts to police pay! The Mayor has requested a report of the shift patterns but is still waiting for a response. Considering the influx of visitors it seems somewhat inadequate to say the least. The councillor responsible for Public Safety reassured everyone that the local constabulary will be reinforced with officers from the National Police over the Summer. I must say I waited for an hour along the Avd Mediterraneo and never saw even a single police car drive past me... makes you wonder doesn´t it - and it wasn´t even bocadillo time!

Organized crime gangs are nothing new - they exist all over the world, especially in Eastern Europe. The Russian mafia are probably one of the most notorious of all. I have personal experience of conducting business over there. You have to pay protection money to either the police or the mafia - or sometimes both! At the moment the Romanians seem to be the culprits of the majority of crime occurring in Benidorm - with freedom of movement within the EU it is very difficult curb. Lets hope that with the Town Hall courting the Russian market that the "wrong sort" don´t come here and start a turf war!

To anyone due here on holiday ... don´t be alarmed but keep your wits about you like you would back home. Many holiday makers seem to leave their brains behind on the plane when they arrive - if you wouldn´t do it back home then don´t do it here! Don´t walk around with lots of expensive gold jewelry on display - with the emergence of so many Gold shops changing your gold for cash it only attracts temptation. Do not carry around a lot of cash or credit cards ... leave them in the hotel safe. Only take enough for the day/night - if you see something you would like to buy then go back the following day. Do not carry your passport around with you ... if you have it pinched it will cost you a lot of effort, time (the Consulate is in Alicante so at least half a day) and money (122 euros) for a replacement document to get back home.

Benidorm is a great place to live and holiday.... thousands think so as they keep coming back year after year.