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Wednesday November 6, 2013

British expats and tourists must remember that opportunity makes a thief

A story for our times. Mr and Mrs Holidaymaker arrive at sunny Palma airport, pick up a hire car and excitedly head for their rented villa by the sea, making a pit stop at nearby Carrefour hypermarket, a stone’s throw from a notorious shanty town known as Son Banya. Unbeknown to the couple gangs of thieves circle the car park like sharks hungrily searching for rich pickings in the easy-to-spot holiday hire cars. Actually, any car will do, as long as it appears to be full of precious booty. Alas! Despite only briefly dropping by the store for some groceries, poor Mr and Mrs Holidaymaker return to find their car smashed open and all their possessions stolen. And the worst thing of all is that the trusting couple left their passports and cash in the vehicle, visible to any passing stranger.

Every summer this kind of sorry tale is trotted out here in Majorca– tourists robbed of everything they own at car parks and forced to spend the rest of their holidays applying for temporary passports from the British Consulate and emergency money from their banks. At the Carrefour car park last year a German couple were approached by a man who claimed that they had a slashed tyre. While he distracted them, his fellow gang members robbed the hire vehicle of wallets, passports, laptops, suitcases and hand luggage. On that occasion, furious that their holiday had been ruined, they returned to the store before flying back home and saw the same gang up to its tricks. The couple telephoned a Majorcan contact who alerted the police and miraculously the felons were caught. But guess what? The gang or a new one is still operating on the same patch and nothing appears to have been done about it.

This week a British expat couple returning from the UK, made the same fatal error. The pair popped into Carrefour for a quick shop and a coffee and returned to find their vehicle broken open and their belongings and passports taken. According to local expat newspaper, Majorca Daily Bulletin, the couple reported the incident to the store but were told that because there were no security cameras in the car park, there was little the company could do. It seems odd that a large hypermarket chain wouldn’t find this sort of incident concerning enough to consider installing security cameras or at least recruiting personnel to patrol the area.

For a holiday island that attracts thousands of tourists and expats it has to make sense for the Guardia Civil, national police, local tourism department and large stores such as Carrefour to work together to solve the issue. Otherwise, as word gets round, more and more people will abandon these stores and vote with their feet, opting for smaller and safer supermarkets closer to their chosen destination, or in the case of expats, near to their homes. Until a solution is found, expats and tourists must wise up and take the necessary precautions. The Foreign Office warns of the dangers of local crime and offers sound advice to expats and holidaymakers alike but often it seems to fall on deaf ears.

A fool and his money are soon parted so it’s far safer to unload cars back at base before heading for a supermarket. Of course shops and restaurants might be closed by then but surely better to go to bed with a rumbling stomach than an empty wallet?

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