Now we really do have to be on guard

Update 20 March 2013: I thought it was time that I updated this post because there are so many reports of petty street crimes, from incidents at cashpoint machines to pickpocketing at bus stations, to cars being targeted as they drive away from the airport … the list goes on. And unfortunately the message is starting to get around and people are becoming nervous. I have even had one person ask if it was really still safe to come to Tenerife, and whether we shouldn’t start officially warning people to stay away.

Tenerife is like many other places in Europe in the respect that crime has increased as the economic situation has worsened, and we are not immune, either, from eastern European gangs whose main purpose is to thieve, as I’ve posted previously. I have also posted, however, how the police regularly round up these vermin, and frankly, if I were to be arrested and depend on my rights for fluffy treatment in any country, Spain would not be top of my list!

Of course it is still safe to come here, and no, we shouldn’t be warning people to stay away. We should, however, be warning people to be careful. The problem is that for so long people have come here as to an idyllic holiday paradise and left their brains at home. That used to be possible. Now it isn’t. Don’t, for example, stop your car unless ordered to by the police. If you do stop it, don’t both get out and leave the doors open for the convenience of any nearby thieves. Don’t flash bundles of Euros around at cashpoints admiring the pretty pictures on those strange Euro notes. Don’t wear flash jewellery and wander around, perhaps a bit the worse for wear, in the early hours. Just carry the amount of spending money you’re going to need at any given time, and leave the credit cards in the safe.

It’s not rocket science, is it? This isn’t outrageous advice, it’s just common sense. Plenty of people have come here over the years and left without experiencing crime of any sort. Plenty still do. The whole economy and political structure of Europe is changing, however, and I’m afraid that we now need to wear our sensible heads at all times, rather than leaving them at home or in the airport.

Update 20 November 2012: The Guardia Civil is investigating the death of a man earlier today in Candelaria Hospital where he had been admitted after being attacked by several individuals outside his home in Guargacho last Thursday. Police sources say the investigation has been opened despite there being few details to go on. They say that the man was so seriously injured that they hadn’t been able even to interview him before he died. Police were initially called after the man’s daughter reported the attack on Friday, and the Guardia Civil says that they are working on the hypothesis that it is a case of aggravated robbery.

Update 15 November: Guardia Civil officers have arrested two youths of 18 and 19 who carried out an armed street robbery in Las Galletas between midnight and half past twelve last night. Getting out of a car in which there were another four occupants, one youth threatened a passer-by with a gun and demanded money. He got away with just €25. After the police were called, a patrol car managed to pick up two of the five; the other three managed to get away and are still being sought.

Update 1 November: I originally posted in May about the “spectacular increase” in forced entry burglaries, with the figures from the Ministerio del Interior showing a rise in the first quarter of 2012 that was almost double the national average. Then in July, the tendency was confirmed and the police issued clear advice to be on guard. Now comes the news that the Canaries is suffering unprecedented crime, with forced entry home robberies going up 41% over 2012. Between January and September there were 3,143 such burglaries compared with 2,236 in the same period of 2011. The 41% rise in the Canaries compares with a rise of 24.5% on the mainland.

It will hardly be a consolation that the eastern Province of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, which covers Gran Canaria itself, and Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, is worse affected than the Tenerife province. It will hardly be a consolation either, I imagine, that the Ministry of the Interior says that the figures are the result of better record keeping: since they are national statistics, one supposes that they will be better kept across the country, and so the explanation cannot account for the discrepancy in the Canaries. The real reason is that we are suffering in these islands worse than anywhere else in Spain right now, and apart from any other economic factors, it means that our physical safety, and that of our belongings, is more at risk than ever before. I hate scaremongering, and am trying hard to keep such posts to a minimum, but we need to be aware … and to be very careful indeed.

Update 6 July: Following directly on from the Ministerio del Interior statistics that I posted about in May, and which showed a “spectacular increase” in crime in these islands, security expert and Guardia Civil Lieutenant Colonel Ricardo Arranz has confirmed the tendency, and issued advice for the summer period.

LC Arranz was speaking on Canarias en la Onda, and said that although the Canaries are still, generally, a secure destination, there is no such thing as “absolute security”. He explained that crime had most increased in terms of shoplifting (particularly in larger supermarkets) and domestic burglaries. Advising that simple precautions could often have the greatest impact, he recommended making sure mail doesn’t pile up when leaving a property for more than one night, not closing all the blinds – a clear signal that a property is empty, and buying a timer so that lights come on at different times, thus giving the impression that someone is at home. The LC went further, though, and added that even those at home need to be careful because many robberies take place during siesta hours when owners are asleep in their own properties. Statistics in this particular respect, indeed, have gone through the roof, he said.

Finally, he stressed that we need to take care when at any public place to avoid being a victim of pickpockets, and not to leave anything valuable visible inside cars, even if locked, when leaving them – even if only for a few moments. Timely advice.

Original post 9 May:  I’ve always made it a general policy not to report on every single burglary or robbery that I come across because this just creates an attitude of fear and does not do anything for Tenerife. My policy has been reinforced in my own mind as crime figures have risen, and I’ve restricted myself to generalized warnings of hotspots, or localized crimewaves. Now, however, there is no avoiding it.

The Canaries is suffering a “spectacular increase” in forced entry burglaries, with the figures from the Ministerio del Interior showing a rise in the first quarter of 2012 that is almost double the national average. This is a national problem, but like the crisis and unemployment, we are seeing the worst effects here, and the national rise of 22.3%, which is itself appalling as one quarter’s figures, is 38.8% in Tenerife province. This is even worse in Las Palmas, where it’s 44.4%, but the rise in Tenerife is the greatest – across the board for robberies, not just forced entry burglaries.

All we can do is protect ourselves as best as we can. Lock doors and, particularly now that summer’s coming, keep windows closed or barred if open overnight. Be alert and vigilant when out and about, keep bags and personal belongings closed and under tight control, and I suppose, keep copies and records of relevant document numbers so that replacements can be acquired with the minimum of pain if the worst should happen. Above all, remember that these are things: don’t try to defend your property when faced with violence. Your papers and belongings can be replaced. Your life can’t.

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