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Spotlight North: The anger in Puerto Alcudia

August 2017 – Alcudia town hall is to amend the bylaw pertaining to citizen coexistence in order to eliminate ‘nuances’ which, in practice, prevent the botellón being penalised.
The existing bylaw, passed in 2008, established that the consumption of alcohol was prohibited in public spaces where this can cause annoyance and that only drinking from glass containers was punishable.

Fines were between 30 and 300 euros. This bylaw has led to young people using plastic containers and moving away from residential areas.

The new bylaw, expected to be ratified in October, will now extend the consumption of alcohol prohibition to any type of container and it will apply to all public spaces, regardless of whether the botellón generates annoyance or not.

Mayor Toni Mir said that it was too early to talk about how much the fines would be, “It is an issue currently pending technical evaluation.” In July, Alcudia joined the #nosiguisase campaign promoted by the government’s public health department under the Balearic addiction and drug dependence plan. The aim of this campaign is to prevent excessive alcohol consumption during fiestas.

October 2020 – New municipal ordinance will allow Alcudia to effectively fight the botellón. Amendment of the order of measures to promote and guarantee citizen coexistence in Alcudia public spaces has as its main objective the improvement of coexistence in light of numerous complaints from residents.

It is a problem with a long history, but it has become more visible during the pandemic because of the health problems that could arise. Mayor Bàrbara Rebassa says that the local police did not have the legal means to deal with the botellón. During the state of alarm and with the restrictive measures, the problem has been ever greater. But it has always existed. Earlier closing times for bars has led many people, especially young people, to continue in areas such as Alcanada beach, the industrial estate and some “unlikely places”.

The sanctions regime includes fines ranging from 30 to 100 euros, although these could increase to 500 euros if there are other issues, such as the leaving of garbage. All the provisions, adds the mayor, reinforce the legal framework by which police officers can work, as the previous bylaw did not adequately address the problems.

Although this amendment gives this reinforcement, Alcudia, like other municipalities on the island, suffers from a shortage of police. “Currently, we have around fifty officers, when the minimum for a municipality like ours is 80,“ notes the mayor.

September 13, 2021 – Last Saturday night, dozens of young people were engaged in pitched battles in Puerto Alcudia. These resulted in two serious injuries and one arrest. The fights went on for a considerable time, while local police and the Guardia Civil tried to contain them. Furniture from a restaurant terrace was used by those attacking one another. There was damage to parked vehicles.

Police sources indicate that there were half a dozen major fights over the night of Saturday into Sunday. It is a situation that has been repeating itself. Up to a thousand young people congregate in Puerto Alcudia for the botellón. This leads to trouble, which reached its peak last Saturday night. Two of the fights resulted in serious injuries, and officers detained a youth wielding a knife who had confronted them.

In light of events at the weekend, the opposition Partido Popular at the town hall have demanded police reinforcements to put an end to the “lack of control” of massive botellón gatherings. Spokesperson Fina Linares is warning of an increase in insecurity and has accused the town hall administration of having “no plan to tackle the problem”.

Mayor Bàrbara Rebassa has denied that there is a lack of control, adding that the local police and the Guardia Civil usually patrol the areas where most young people gather in order to guarantee safety. “The police try to get young people to go home once the bars are closed, but it is difficult.”

September 18, 2021 – So let me have my say and not just reproduce news reports. The anger I feel about what happened last Saturday is an anger shared by many others. It is an anger rooted not just in the fact that there were these fights, that Croasan’s terrace was trashed, that there was apparently just the one arrest, it is anger with a long past because of the sheer passivity which has been displayed by authorities and what might even be said to be some collaboration.

Consider the news report from August 2017. The town hall was now taking action because they had realised that people drink from plastic containers. What sort of control had they expected? And 2017 was only recent. For how many years had there been the botellón by Magic by then?

That news report, to me, speaks now – as it spoke then – to the fact that authorities weren’t taking the botellón in Alcudia seriously, despite the evidence that there was an ongoing problem of law and order. How was it that the police didn’t have an adequate legal framework? The mind boggles, and yet it doesn’t if you take the view that authorities perceived local youth as being far less troublesome than foreign youth. It is a perception with which many a foreign resident or tourist is complicit. “Spanish youngsters – they go off to a fiesta but they don’t cause the type of trouble that British ones would.” Rubbish. You have no idea what you’re talking about.

By 2017, authorities were waking up to the problems. Hence there was that #nosiguisase (don’t be an ass) campaign. Even so, there was still the botellón, and when the pandemic struck – because of the health issues – Alcudia was once more jolted into amending its ordinance. But to what effect?

One does have some sympathy, because we all know there are police shortages. I’m told that it took police seven to eight minutes to attend the scene of the Croasan incident. Perhaps they had been dealing with another one. More than likely. But even allowing for the shortage, how many police were there? Julio Bastida from Ultima Hora’s ‘Ley y Orden’ suggests three local police patrols and one Guardia Civil patrol. And there were some one thousand kids running amok.

I’m sorry, Mayor Rebassa, but to deny that there is a lack of control simply won’t wash. Have you seen the videos, Bàrbara? I’m sure you will have. And so will you continue to make this denial?

Why have I mentioned collaboration? I’m of course not suggesting for one moment that authorities have encouraged the types of scene we have witnessed, but what I have in mind is that “macro-botellón” at the end of the school year. Thousands of kids descending on Alcudia – Magic especially. I know that Toni Mir was greatly concerned by it, but it had somehow become established to the point where town halls would send their police tutors along in case they were needed.

The macro-botellón confirmed, reinforced Alcudia as a location, a prime location for the botellón at other times, such as last weekend. You reap what you sow, and then bemoan your lot because of a shortage of police.

One arrest last Saturday night. One arrest. There may well be more because of all the video footage made available to the police. But what happens then? The Balearic government has established a fines regime that includes 1,000 euros for mere attendance at a botellón. There is the fighting on top of this. The damage caused. Are the courts going to be busy? You tell me, and meanwhile it would be nice to be told something by the government or the national government’s delegate.

Why hasn’t there been an urgent meeting for security?
A reason why not, one suspects, is that Alcudia isn’t Palma, and this is where I reserve particular anger for the government. Special police operations to deal with the botellón. And where? Palma, that’s where.

I hadn’t imagined things getting out of hand to the extent that they did last Saturday, but when Iago Negueruela was banging on about the special operations, I immediately wondered about the rest of the island, and Alcudia in particular. Look what happened.

There will doubtless be those who offer some mitigation. All those months of restrictions. Sorry, but that doesn’t wash either. Not when there are running street fights and terraces being wrecked. And nor does the argument about nightlife being closed carry much weight. Some, granted, but only some, as the botellón has occurred regardless of clubs being open.

Fina Linares is not wrong in pointing to an increasing sense of insecurity. It is a different matter, but the summer students are part of the same issue, one of a growing lawlessness. And last Saturday was just that – lawless.

What can we now expect? As I say, some intervention or observation from higher up the political food chain than Alcudia town hall wouldn’t go amiss. But otherwise, will there be police road blocks at the main access roundabout? Will the police flood Magic? Maybe they will. But for how long?

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