ANNUAL SUMMER BEACH SAFETY AND SECURITY OPERATIONBy Humphrey Carter
THE Balearics yesterday called on Madrid to help resolve the pending problem posed by the 300 National Police officers who have applied for a transfer to the mainland and assist in the annual summer security operation. This summer 23 local councils, across the four islands, are included in the Balearic beach security and safety plan unveiled by the Minister for Tourism, Celestí Alomar and the Balearic Interior Minister, Josep Maria Costa yesterday. Apart from stepping up personal security for tourists and holidaymakers, the operation is also designed to increase personal safety. Over the past three years the number of drownings, for example, has fallen from 21 to 16. This year however, faced with a lack of police, the government wants to make the maximum use of participating local council resources by utilising the latest development in first-aid, rescue and security technology. Life guards, who for the first time this year will become professionals, will also undergo new training this year and be better equipped while access for emergency vehicles and the disabled to beaches will be greatly improved. b>2003 is the European Year for the Disabled and disabled access to a total of 23 beaches is to be either installed or improved.
But while the Balearics has the resources to ensure maximum safety and security on the beaches, the Interior Minister said the region needs the full collaboration of central government in Madrid to increase public safety over the summer. Costa said that in Barcelona, where there is a very close working relationship between central, local and municipal governments with regards to policing and security, the public feel much more secure. Alomar however, was quick to play down talks of public security in the Balearics, claiming that security levels are much higher than in many of the region's competing holiday destinations. Although US and Japanese tourists are warned to take great care in Barcelona and Seville.
Balearics still tops Spanish crime figures
THE number of crimes committed per 1'000 people in the Balearics was not only the second highest in Spain, but over twice the national average.
Tackling the region's crime problem is continuing to challenge the local authorities and the police, but a shortfall of policemen and women is not making the situation any easier. According to central government figures, 55.45 crimes were committed per 1.000 inhabitants in the Balearics last year.
Only the crime rates in Tarragona and Alicante came close with 45.95 and 45.84 crimes per 1.000 inhabitants respectively.
Topping the list was Spain's North African enclave Ceuta, although the difference between the Balearic crime rate and that of 55.73 per 1.000 people in Ceuta was negligible. At the other end of the scale, in Lerida, just 0.29 crimes were committed per 1'000 inhabitants.
Over the past two years various new security crackdowns have been launched by both the Local and National Police forces, but safety, or rather the lack of it, is still one of the general public's main concerns in the Balearics. Various neighbourhood local police projects have been launched and re-launched in Palma while the National Police, which launched the controversial Focus Plan last year, should have this year stepped up policing in Palma as part of a new national crackdown on crime in trouble-spot cities across Spain. The National Police focus plan came under fire from minority groups claiming that immigrants were being targeted while the bulk of the public in Palma said they approved of the project. Central government has given the Balearics repeated assurances that steps will, and are, being taken to fill the gaps in the Balearic police forces; both the National Police and the Guardia Civil are having serious problems in finding members prepared to relocate to the Balearics because of the high cost of living, compared to the mainland, and insufficient financial compensation.
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