Around fifty residents spread over the villages of Macharaviaya, Iznate and Almáchar took to the streets last Tuesday to protest over "a wave" of burglaries in rural properties in the area and have demanded a greater police presence after five houses have been burgled in the last month.
According to Miguel Ángel Merino and Yolanda Pérez, who live in the area, the thefts have taken place in the early hours of the morning and in properties that were empty at the time, as the owners only spend weekends or holidays there.
"But there are a lot of people living here, around 30 families, and we are very afraid, because who's to say that they can't break into your house while you're asleep," said Merino, who is a health worker in Jaén. "I have to get up at five in the morning every day and you are scared, there have been at least five cases in little more than a month, we need more police presence and the Guardia Civil in the area, or the villages need to create rural guards posts to monitor the roads," he added.
In the latest incident thieves completely ransacked a property, taking household appliances, a telescope, clothes and other valuables. "But what hurt me the most and humiliated me was that they urinated on one of the beds and in the kitchen, it was disgusting," the victim, Antonio, told TV programme Canal Sur during the protest last Tuesday.
"It is a very beautiful and peaceful area, with spectacular views, we are only half an hour from the motorway, life here is great, we came when the pandemic began, but now we are afraid of being robbed in the early hours of the morning," said Pérez.
In addition to the problem of robberies, there are also cases of 'squatters' in empty houses. "We managed to get them to leave one of the houses, it was a couple, she was South American and he was from Malaga. They told us that they had paid 400 euros to enter the house [and] that someone had forced the doors," he explained.
The owner of the property travelled from Finland when he found out that his house was being used by squatters. "All the neighbours went and we convinced them to leave," said Merino, who believes that there is currently at least one other house in the area occupied by squatters. "We need more police presence, because from the moment the alarms go off, the Guardia Civil take almost half an hour to arrive, which is more than enough time to ransack the houses," he added.
Mayor of Almáchar, Antonio Yuste, who was at last Tuesday's protest, said that the three councils have sent a letter to the sub-delegate of the central government in Malaga, Javier Salas, to demand an increase in the number of Guardia Civil officers. In addition the councillor said that they are studying the creation of rural guard posts.
This is not the first time in recent years that residents of Axarquía have reported burglaries in rural properties. The previous spate took place at the beginning of March 2020, just before the start of the pandemic. Around 200 residents in the western nuclei of Vélez-Málaga, including Cajiz, Valle-Niza, Los Íberos, Almayate and Benajarafe, reported a wave of burglaries, with at least twenty cases, some of them in broad daylight and with residents inside the properties.