Around ten different shop owners in the centre of Arroyo de la Miel have reported break-ins and thefts over the last few weeks, including a pharmacy, a beauty salon, a bar, a driving school, a tattoo parlour, an audiology centre and an off-licence. The police have confirmed that two of three organised gangs found to be operating in this part of Benalmádena have been broken up after multiple members were arrested in March. However identifying the ringleader of the third gang, which is thought to be responsible for the latest thefts, is reportedly much more difficult, even with the increased police presence.
The owner of the beauty salon, María Victoria Benítez, explains that she has installed CCTV after 18,000 euros worth of computers and work equipment was stolen recently. “All the businesses in this area are in the same situation, it's infuriating,” she said. Indeed, just 20 metres down the road in Calle Venus, Otofon, the audiology centre, was also subject to a robbery last week when thieves stole cash, hearing aids and a laptop which altogether amounted to a value of 4,000 euros. Likewise, Pablo Fernández reported a robbery on his pharmacy in the early hours of 1 May. “They swiped around 1000 euros from the till,” he explained.
Other businesses, such as the performing arts centre Danzamania, have suffered vandalism to their shops as a result of the same thieves trying, but failing, to enter the building. Óscar Nogales, the owner of Danzamania, believes that the current police presence on the streets of Arroyo de la Miel is still not enough, as do many other shop owners, who wish for their businesses and names to remain anonymous. “We are not asking for the police to be here permanently, just that they pass through the streets more often in order to deter the thieves,” one such business owner said.
From their investigation, the National Police have discovered that the perpetrators use shears, crowbars and screwdrivers to help them break through windows and doors, before breaking into the shop's till wearing gloves to prevent leaving their fingerprints. The police also believe that the thieves are resident in local houses, where they are also hiding their tools and loot.
At a meeting on 10 May, organised by the Association of Shop and Business Owners in Benalmádena (ACEB), which was attended by the investigation's superintendent Julio Ros and a number of local police officers, the shop owners viewed various photos of a man suspected to be the ringleader of the gang committing the most recent thefts. ACEB's president, Rosa María González recognised that the police have been more present in Arroyo de la Miel after the thefts that took place earlier in the year, but insisted that now even greater vigilance is necessary, and suggested that undercover police officers be posted in the area.