Security camera image during the incident on March 19; the female employee quit her job immediately.


On Tuesday, the mayor of Palma, Jaime Martínez, outlined the higher fines that will apply when new civic ordinance comes into effect in a couple of months time. The town hall's tougher approach is motivated in no small part by the situation in Playa de Palma, where businesses and residents have spoken about an increased sense of insecurity as well as anti-social behaviour.

The mayor had given advance notice of this approach at the ITB Berlin tourism fair earlier this month. With a German audience firmly in mind, he referred to the drafting in of more police; he would be holding talks with the Spanish government's delegation in the Balearics regarding a "significant" increase in National Police reinforcements.

In highlighting a lack of security, discussions by and large have been concerned with issues only too familiar over the years, e.g. fights and the street crimes of pickpocketing and mugging. What these discussions have not highlighted is crime of an altogether different character - extortion rackets. Playa de Palma, by which one mainly means the Arenal part, has suffered from these in the past.

Hells Angels gangs have been implicated in these rackets, as is once more the case. Speaking about the violent incident at a restaurant on March 19 when a restaurant owner had his jaw broken during a confrontation with a Hells Angels gang leader, a regular German tourist, Joseph, says: "The Hells Angels want to rule the entire area. I get the feeling that this is all going to get worse. We knew it was going to happen again. We hope that a remedy is found."

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Another tourist, Klaus, who has been coming to Playa de Palma for years, says: "It's unforgivable that we have to live with these people. It cannot be tolerated that an area like Arenal becomes a crime neighbourhood. I haven't had any issues with them, but I know what happens, as some friends have had a bad time with them."

Tourists themselves are therefore aware of this criminality, as of course are local businesspeople. One restaurant owner says that all restaurants are fearful. "The climate of tension is palpable. They come to a bar, eat and then don't pay. If you say anything, they threaten you. It's intolerable."

Then there are employees, such as one at the restaurant where the March 19 incident occurred. A painting fell on her head during the fight. She was cut and there was blood. She quit immediately.

The owner, who is still in hospital, feels helpless. The gang leader and one other were arrested. "The judge set them free. He didn't take their passports and preventive measures (restraining order) are minimal. This is the justice we have in Spain. What will German tourists think of the security provided by judges in this country?"