Top level talks were held in Palma yesterday to discuss the escalating rate of crime in the Balearics. Last year the Balearics witnessed the sharpest rise in crime in Spain and the figures for the first quarter of this year have caused further reasons for concern. Last year, the crime rate rose by 38.5 per cent in comparison to the year 2000 and crime figures so far this year, are up on last year. Yesterday the Balearic Interior Minister, Josep Maria Costa, gathered together representatives from all the various regional authorities to discuss the creation of a special Public Security Board in order to analyse and react to the situation. While last year the Balearics did not have the highest crime rate in Spain, the region did experience the sharpest rise and, according to a local government survey carried out in May and June, public safety is the Balearic population's second concern. Last year it was the population's fourth major worry - this year only housing is causing more concern. Costa was quick to play down the importance of the latest reports, admitting that while the figures will cause concern , “there is no need for alarm.” Over the next few months, the Security Board will be discussing a number of solutions, but Costa said that the focus will not only be on crime, but the emergencies, fires and rescues. In Palma, crime and public safety has been a growing concern for the past 18 months, despite the Police 2000 and community policing programmes, but the latest report refers to the whole region. One of the biggest problems the Local Police forces are having to deal with is a lack of personnel and resources while some forces in Majorca have complained about poor working conditions and insufficient pay packages. In the middle of September, the Public Security Board will be officially established with all the local authorities and emergency services involved and a set of immediate aims drawn up.

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