Paphos police are issuing a stark warning to tourists: don’t bring expensive jewellery with you; use cards not cash, and keep your passport with you at all times.
The warning is in response to the rise in burglaries and thefts as the summer tourist season gets underway.
Police and local authorities say that Peyia – a popular destination and home to a vast number of holiday villas and apartments – is a particular target.
“During the summer we have more of this type of crime and we do have a large number of burglaries now, however we are also regularly arresting many criminals responsible for these crimes,” Paphos police spokesman, Michalis Ioannou, told the Sunday Mail.
He said that this week alone three men aged 24, 35 and 36, appeared in court charged with seven burglaries of holiday homes in Peyia carried out between January and June this year.
Holiday homes were the gang’s main target and they mostly stole jewellery and cash, said Ioannou. Some of the jewellery has been returned to its owners.
“The three sold some jewellery to a shop that buys gold and operated in accordance with legislation so we were able to collect items brought in by them and show it to the tourists, which they were able to identify,” he said.
There are no current official figures available for this season’s burglaries as yet, police say.
Linda Leblanc, a local Peyia coalition party councillor, warned that burglaries had increased in Peyia over the last three years, even though figures presented by police at a coalition meeting in December 2018 showed that crime had decreased.
“Nobody believed that though, we hear of these sorts of crimes a lot during the summer especially,” she said.
She went as far as to suggest that the accelerating crime rate could be a factor in the predicted 30 per cent drop in tourism in the area this year. This has been largely put down to Brexit uncertainty affecting the exchange rate and other, more competitive markets, taking their share.
The councillor said that there is an ‘element in Peyia’ that wants to keep the problem quiet, but she disagrees. Her approach is to tell the truth, ‘otherwise there are far more problems created when unsuspecting holiday makers are burgled.’
“We need to be honest about this problem and tackle it head on and be critical and ask ourselves what we can do to make the situation better. But some people prefer to ignore it, but then it will blow up in our face,” she said.
If there is an attempt to gloss over the extent of the problem, it is being hampered by social media which is already awash posts by holidaymakers to Peyia that have had their trips ruined.
A few days ago, a tourist named Cassie posted on a Cyprus Crime Facebook page that her family’s holiday in Peyia was ruined when thieves broke into their villa and stole cash (their children’s pocket money) costume jewellery and a waterproof camera, all whilst they popped out for a take-away.
She wrote that the thieves had forced entry through the aluminium kitchen door and believes that the family disturbed them on their return.
She said that when they were asked to visit Peyia police station to see if they could identify their items from a hoard of stolen goods, they witnessed many other tourists doing the same thing.
“There were a lot of tears and broken souls. We came away feeling violated once more as we didn’t identify our stuff. The feeling it leaves you with is just awful.”
That night, a second villa on the same road saw thieves make away with cash and a week previously, a third villa just three doors away was also burgled.
“It’s just rife with this sort of crime sadly,” she wrote.
She praised the actions of the police and said the family were glad they reported the crime.
On attending the police station again later that night, they witnessed a number of burglars being charged with robbing a Peyia villa the previous evening.
The family stayed at a hotel that night whilst the villa door was secured by a professional, local locksmith, to help them feel safe for their last few nights at the villa. But the frightening experience has left its mark
”We are back home in the UK and I don’t sleep properly because of nightmares and I feel so angry and frustrated. Who knew a burglary could be so impacting on people lives and holidays.”
Local resident, Cynthia Demitriades told the Sunday Mail said that such instances were slowly becoming the norm in Peyia.
“I know someone who was burgled last week and I have heard of others who have been at home when the perpetrators have entered their gardens and even homes,” she said. “We really need to make tourists aware of how it is here now so that they can take action to try to prevent it, but I think some people in authority don’t want this to happen as they only see it as bad publicity for the island.”
Ioannou said that Paphos police are giving out relevant information through holiday companies, helping holiday makers to stay safe. He advised: “Don’t bring a lot of expensive jewellery with you and don’t bring much cash, it’s better to pay with your card. Also, take you passport with you.”
He added that police patrols are increased in areas where suspicious activity is reported and that community police man are available in all areas of Cyprus. Police are also recommending that holiday homes are fitted with alarms as these act as a good deterrent.
Leblanc said that once working as it should, the new local Neighbourhood Watch scheme, set up seven months ago, will be invaluable.
Many residents have signed up for it, though it appears there have been some delays with the application process apparently because many did not sign the forms.
Applicants have a choice of applying in English or Greek and the forms are available from Peyia Municipality.
Leblanc has also worked with the mayor and municipality on a tourist flyer for rental villas, with general tips about keeping safe on holidays.