"Every night people get robbed," says the owner of a popular nightclub in La Nogalera in Torremolinos. Residents and visitors are enduring a state of "defencelessness" after several organised criminal groups have established themselves in the area known as a benchmark of gay leisure in southern Europe.
The narrow alleyway where the majority of the area's gay bars are located seems to be the area chosen by these criminals: "They wait at the start and the end and target customers."
The fact that very few of these crimes are reported encourages the thieves. The Spanish LGBT Confederation (Colega) doesn't classify these as hate crimes but admits that the attacks "have a clear homophobic element" as the assailants know that the chances of the crimes being reported are lower due to "shame or fear".
The president of Colega in Torremolinos, Santiago Rubio, calls for "more security and higher police presence" at La Nogalera, even during the week when there are fewer people frequenting the establishments, making people, especially drunk tourists returning to their hotels in the early hours, more vulnerable.
For their part, the Torremolinos town hall claims that the crimes are "isolated and not coordinated", adding that the number of crimes has not increased. Despite this, last week they announced that police presence would be stepped up "in response to appeals from residents and business owners".
Many nightclub owners have come together and are preparing a document in which they are appealing for institutional help to tackle the problem. "We are not worried about our premises because we all have security measures and cameras. But we are worried about the general safety of the area. It's very easy to rob someone here, especially if there are no police officers to be seen." The arrest and then subsequent release of offenders is another reason for indignation: "They pick them up, let them go and then they rob again. They are laughing in our faces."
In the letter, they propose the installation of surveillance cameras, employing private security, and the strategic placement of police cars in the area.