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realized his wallet had been removed from his shoulder bag, and by the time he tried to stop his card, €600 had been withdrawn.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.