Eastern European gangs targeting elderly and infirm return to Tenerife for winter pickings

Update 11 December: Police say that they have scored a major success against these thieves with the arrest of 17 Romanians in south Tenerife last weekend on charges including fraud, criminal deception, and theft. No-one should drop their guard, however, because police say they think around some 400 are  operating here at present. Police say they are doing so in a mafia fashion and, as such, are being treated as individuals involved in organized crime. As I posted in October, they can therefore be remanded in custody, rather than being released to resume stealing. Let’s wish the police luck to continue getting these predators off the streets.

Update 26 November: I’m updating this to remind people of this problem once again because I received a sad email only this morning from a 95-year-old regular visitor to Tenerife who was the victim of pickpockets in El Médano yesterday. The thieves operated as a couple, with a woman coming to sit near the poor man, and being joined moments later by a man.  It was only on getting back to his apartment that their victim realized his wallet had been removed from his shoulder bag, and by the time he tried to stop his card, €600 had been withdrawn. Be careful out there.

Update 30 October 2012: It’s that time of year again, it seems. Bands of Romanian and Bulgarian street thieves are descending on the islands in what the local press is describing as reminiscent of migrating animals across the Serengeti. They’ve spent the summer on the mainland and in the Balearic Islands, and are now heading to Tenerife. The main tourist areas in the south are their grazing territory, and their particular prey is the elderly tourist.

The National Police in Playa de las Américas are ready for them, and might this time be arresting them on charges of organized crime rather than pickpocketing: as such they can be remanded in custody and removed from the streets on a first offence. There is no substitute for self protection, however, and police say that holidaymakers should be on guard everywhere, but particularly at the beach, in supermarkets, in bus queues, and especially in hotels. Be on guard.

Original post 20 November 2011: Tenerife is a bit safer now that the Policía Nacional has arrested four Romanians for systematic and organized thieving. The group hired cars and drove around Tenerife finding good spots to prey on tourists. Two or three of them would then distract a victim while another pick-pocketed their belongings.

Lately, in particular, the group’s chosen stake-out was Puerto de la Cruz, where reports of thefts in streets, supermarkets, Loro Parque and hotels throughout the town have rocketed. A police operation followed, and one of the gang was caught red-handed in a supermarket stealing a wallet from a British holidaymaker who had been distracted by two accomplices.

One of the most sickening things about the group was the disproportionate number of elderly and infirm victims, indicating that these were especially selected as being safest to rob. The police have done a super job getting these calculating and cynical thieves off the streets.


  1. Hi
    I was attacked and robbed in playa de las americas by a gang on the way back to my hotel after a nights drinking in the veronicas nightspot on 06/10/2013.
    This attack left me hospitalised that night requiring a brain scan.
    Speaking to a local lady later during the week,I was informed this is becoming a regular occurance and suggested that Romanians are the problem.

  2. Author

    That’s terrible, Chris, I do hope you’re recovering well and that all is OK.

  3. I think you’ll find drinking late into the night in that area comes with a high risk of mugging, pickpocket, assault not just from Romanians but African women , men and a few others !
    My friends (in their 50’s )chose to go there at 2 in the morning for a follow on – stayed in a group most of night but one decided to wander – he was mugged and assaulted by a group of African women !
    The zone around San Eugenio down to Puerto Colon is a popular area in winter for muggings , especially of older people , so be aware and carry as little as possible !

  4. We have been happily holidaying in Los Cristianos for over 20 years . We love it and have always felt safe until now. We had 3 weeks over Christmas and New Year and witnessed 3 pickpockets on the walkway along from the Charlotte restaurant towards the Olive Garden . They are a young couple and an older more burly type man . The two young ones come very close to you and try to get into bag or jacket pockets. My husband saw them and they simply laughed, separated and disappeared. We saw them in action twice with me and with another pair of holidaymakers. It is very difficult to report and there never seems to be a police presence that we can see in this quite badly lit but busy area. A local restaurant owner told us that this area is plagued by these 3 brazen thieves. Be aware all of those who walk along here .

  5. Sadly it’s not just elderly people they target. Me and my partner were staying at our apartment in San Eugenio over Christmas/New Year and a young Spanish guy came behind my partner on the escalators going down to the Mercadona and tried to slip his hand inside his pocket in broad daylight. Luckily my partner felt his hand and turned round immediately. We gave him and his sneaky mate a mouthful when we reached the bottom. It’s such a despicable thing to just steal from people. Have these people ever heard of getting a job and doing an honest days work to earn money! Scum.

  6. We have been on our way to the south airport at Tenerife and had our last stop at Guimar playa to have lunch. When we back to the car, back window has been broken and all our bags have been stolen. Luckily we had our passports with us. But that was very sad and of our wonderfull holiday 🙁

  7. Although I would prefer to remain anonymous in case of any repercussions I thought I should tell you of my experience last night.
    I am currently out of work and was actively searching for positions that were suitable when I came across an advert looking for a driver to show a tourist around the island. I made contact and agreed to meet him. But there was something fishy. From his profile his name was john smith from London and worked for IBM. But clearly from his accent he was not British and the country code was Romania. So when I arrived at a very high class hotel in the south of Tenerife I made a point of going early so to have a quick check around. The 2 men where at the first table near the door. As I sat down I quickly realised that the man next to me was texting another man on another table not 2 metres away. The man opposite said hello so I commented “that’s an interesting accent. Where are you from? He said Norway and his friend is Swedish. Bearing in mind I knew they were Romanian-why lie. The so called Norwegian started to explain the job. He wanted me take the Swedish guy around Tenerife to the tourist spots. He mentioned Los Gigantes. I explained that hotels normally supply a bus so why not use that. Also a taxi is much more cost effective. He didn’t really have an answer. I explained I wasn’t interested and he said that’s no problem he has others waiting but could I take the Swedish man to Playa San Juan as a good will gesture and he will pay me. I said no as I think this whole thing is just not right. I shook their hand and started to leave. Passing the reception mirror I noticed the Swedish guy was right behind me so I made a 180 degree turn to the toilet. He carried on in his original direction. I then went outside. I couldn’t see the Swedish guy so got into my vehicle and left. It was all very strange and felt a dangerous situation to be in. Were they asking me to take them from spot to spot to target tourists or were they after my vehicle. I will never know but nevertheless a scary moment.

    (edit JA: I’ve removed your name and posted this as “anon”)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.