Montagnola Park has undergone a transformation from being a peaceful pastime for joggers and walkers alike to nothing short of a nightmare – and that’s during daylight hours. Recent drug busts by the undercover Flying Squad have begun to highlight a rise in drug trafficking, which in turn often lead to other anti-social problems like prostitution and petty crime setting up shop.
Police sources have indicated that the street dealers, which were predominantly north Africans such as Moroccans and Tunisians have now passed to the Nigerians and other Central Africans. The last successful police bust in July ensnared a high number of Central African immigrants but the police suggested that:
“As soon as we arrest one or take one of the street there are many more to replace them.”
And dealers are not afraid of approaching visitors to the park. They will either whisper out as you pass by, “Smoke? Grass?” Or they will wait until they make eye contact with you and then approach you with the same questions.
Hashish and Marijuana cost between 10-15 euros a gram, depending also on the quality. With so many dealers around the park people are haggling over prices for the best deals.
However, the recent arrests of immigrants that include asylum seekers are proving to be particularly worrisome.
When Bologna Press walked around the park taking photos, several times we were warned to go away and stop. The atmosphere was intense to say the least.
As one social worker put it: “These poor African immigrants have nothing to do all day,” she admitted, “that when a simple ‘job opportunity’ like selling drugs comes along, they are forced to take it either through boredom or because they have absolutely nothing anyway.”
The Vigili and Carabinieri supposedly carry out daily patrols although locals criticize that they are simply not doing enough. A bar owner from the collective area in the middle of the park, warned us that the the police effort is too little. “Customers are afraid to walk through the park now. Just take a look around. How safe does it feel when there are drug dealers and gangs of youths sitting around staring at people?”
For their defense, the police have noticed pushers becoming more devious increasing the difficulty of catching them in the first place.
In order to not be caught with a substantial amount of illegal substances on their person, dealers usually only carry a few grams at a time and hide the rest. When a customer comes along they ask a runner to go and pick up the required amount to sell on. Therefore, limiting the risk of going to prison or losing their stash in one fell swoop.
It’s impossible not to notice. Take a walk around the park and it suddenly becomes evident that the bar on one side of the park is visited by white people, most likely all Italian.
Seated around park tables, instead, are immigrants, possibly some naturalized Italians, punkabestia lounging on the gardens, and gangs of African or Asian youths huddle around a single bench.
Maria, a local runner told Bologna Press: “I used to love running here any time of the day but there’s no way I’d do it anymore after 6pm. I feel so frightened now especially from all the groups of men hanging around the park all day long.”
A customer at the bar also indicated that they would like to have a picnic at the tables but, “They are always full of immigrants but not even families. I mean young and old men seem to dominate those areas. It’s like a ‘No-Go’ zone now.”