NEWS

Malia alarm raised after rapes

Despite the efforts of the British Embassy in Athens and appeals by local authorities on Crete, the rowdy tourist resorts of Malia and Hersonissos have already become a hotspot for out-of-control behavior, including several rapes, this month. Three women from Britain and Norway, aged between 20 and 24, were allegedly gang-raped last week, prompting local officials to demand authorities take more measures to prevent further incidents this summer. «We vehemently decry these acts, regardless of who commits them,» Malia Mayor Costas Lagoudakis told Kathimerini. «This extreme behavior suggests that visitors’ safety will be in danger but they also sully our land throughout the world.» Reacting to the rape allegations, Iraklion’s chief prosecutor Nikos Markakis held a meeting in his office yesterday with the British consul, local mayors and representatives of travel agencies. «Alcohol and the feeling of total freedom lead many tourists to embarrass themselves and to go beyond the boundaries,» Markakis told Kathimerini, while admitting that the number of rape cases reported to the police was lower so far this year than last year. Markakis also criticized the tendency of some tour operators to take their customers on organized bar crawls that are one of the selling points of the package vacations offered to holidaymakers. «It is unacceptable for them to take tourists en masse to specific bars where they give them adulterated alcohol, which leads to the kind of events we are all familiar with,» he said. Lagoudakis said that tests have been carried out by the police at the bars in Malia that figure on the organized bar crawls and so far none has been found to be selling adulterated alcohol – just cheap, second-rate drinks. Some 600,000 tourists visit Malia and Hersonissos and the behavior of some visitors, mainly those from Britain, last year prompted the then British ambassador in Athens, Simon Gass, to hold meetings with local mayors, representatives of the tour operators and the police in a bid to ensure that there would not be a repeat of the problems this year. Dozens of tourists were arrested in Malia last summer, mostly for alcohol or drug offenses, while a number of people were seriously injured in alcohol-related incidents.