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Crime and Safety

Spain - Crime and Safety

Spain is considered to be a relatively safe place to visit and live but it is certainly not free of crime. There is always a threat of terrorist activity as the Basque separatist group known as ETA was very active until recently. The main terrorist threat is from Islamic extremists although there have been no attacks since 2004. However, the security services in the country remain on high alert.

Street crime is probably one of the biggest dangers although there are very few instances of armed street robbery. Simply taking standard precautions such as not wandering into badly-lit areas and remaining with friends where you can should help to keep the threat of robbery at bay. Pickpockets and muggers can be active in areas where there are tourists. Muggings in Spain are often organized by gangs now and those who take part are not afraid to mug in public places. Bag snatching carried out by a passenger on a motorbike is common and some criminals have mastered carrying out this crime from a car.

Thieves are also more likely to take your valuables from your car than they are to steal the car itself. Foreign cars and rental cars are prime targets, so it is a good idea to have a Spanish registered car as soon as you can. It is common practice for Spanish drivers to carry all valuables with them, even a car radio, when they are not in their car.

One scam that foreigners in Spain should be aware of is the lottery scam whereby people are conned into buying worthless tickets and the scammer tries to then convince them that they have won a prize. There are also still a number of timeshare sale scams in operation.

The rate of crime is considerably lower than in many other countries. Statistics are available from 2006, which show that the Spain had under 50 crimes per 1000 inhabitants, a low figure when compared with the 80 per 1000 that was in the UK. It is generally considered that the vast majority of Spanish people have a great deal of respect for laws, even though minor laws such as parking regulations are generally ignored in some areas. It is common in rural areas for people to leave their homes unlocked and crime is almost zero. It is also common in Spain as in other countries for areas with higher populations to have higher crime rates. Barcelona, Madrid and Malaga have fairly high crime rates.

Figures released in 2011 show that the level of crime has fallen to around 45 per 1000 inhabitants. This is one of the lowest figures recorded in recent years. The figures do only show ‘recorded’ crime but the numbers of murders have fallen and the number of thefts has also dropped. The Spanish government has praised the work of the police and other security forces for bringing about the drop in the crime rate.

The Costa del Sol has developed a reputation over the years as the ideal place for fugitives from other countries to hide, and this has also spread to the Costa Blanca and the Costa Brava. When Spain joined the EU it was end of days with no extradition treaty but there are still many wanted criminals hiding out there. They rarely pose a direct danger to members of the public though and are often living normal lives there.

The police force in Spain has changed a great deal since the days of the rule of Franco. It is now a modern police force with police stations in all towns and cities. The police officers are considered to be approachable and will often offer assistance without being asked. It is wise to be wary of a person claiming to be a police officer who is not in uniform as this is a scam often used by thieves. A genuine police officer will be happy to produce ID. Most police officers in Spain are armed.

In order to contact the Police you can simply call 112, which is the main emergency services number. The police force can be contacted directly on 902 102 112, although in the larger cities you can simply dial 091.

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