"Claveleras" in Palma looking for victims to rob. | J.F. Mestre

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The National Police in Palma have arrested three Spanish women referred to as "claveleras", i.e. carnation sellers who rob tourists having diverted their attention. This is part of an operation called Clavel III, the third part of an ongoing campaign against this type of crime that was started in 2012.

At the end of that year there were 16 arrests and a breaking-up of what the police classified as an organised criminal gang. Some of the women were taken into custody, while all of them were issued with restraining orders designed to keep them away from the centre of Palma. This proved to be successful, as none of the women committed any crime for around three years.

The police consider this to be a criminal problem in the city centre which has contributed to Palma having had one of the highest rates of this type of crime in Spain. It is a crime that generates a sense of insecurity and a feeling that its perpetrators can act with virtual impunity. In addition to reports from victims, it has led to complaints from those not directly affected, such as shop owners, cruise-ship operators and municipal workers.

It became apparent to the police that, with the restraining order having expired, women were once more working the principal areas for this crime, such as near to the cathedral, in and around the Parc de la Mar, along the Born avenue and in Sa Feixina park.

The women meet up in bars and then form groups of two to three. This allows them as a gang to cover a wide area and to try and avoid their being identified as involved in organised conspiracy to commit crimes. Cruise-ship passengers are especially attractive. While one or two women target their victims, another acts as a lookout for police. If victims, onlookers or traders are aware of what is happening, the women will respond aggressively.

Once a theft is made, the women leave the scene rapidly and conceal money in their private areas. This is then passed on or kept and, in the case of foreign currencies, exchanged at a bank into euros.

The three arrested women plus a further three have received new restraining orders, banning them from going within 500 metres of the centre of Palma. Further arrests are expected.