I’ve had several emails lately about mini-crimewaves in various parts of south Tenerife, many making reference to the fact that Arona and Adeje have been able to “sort out their scooter problem so why not robberies mainly on holiday makers?” Some have also asked why “the councils don’t work with the police to try to deal with the problem”, or why they never see police on the streets. Since I had another email this morning, and with the winter visitors not too far off arriving, it seems a good moment to try to explain.
The police are well aware of these problems, and every year there are waves of crime, e.g. in the summer when tourists are targeted, or the winter when the elderly tend to be the victims. Often there are different culprits, some of whom fly in specifically to prey on their targets. The National Police and Guardia Civil frequently round up those who cause the worst problems, though the general trend for increased theft is partly the result of real poverty in Spain generally because of the high unemployment rate – that’s not to justify it, but it is to try to explain it.
Those concerned by these crimewaves need to consider two-pronged approaches. First, people must report crimes – and they must do so to the right police! It might seem surprising, but many don’t report crime at all, thinking that it’s a waste of time because “they” never answer or come out, or can’t or won’t be bothered to solve a minor theft. Partly people think this because they don’t know which police to call, and often call the wrong ones who aren’t able to respond: sadly, inability to speak Spanish is at the root of the problem in communication in many cases. People also seem to think that as a “local crime” they should call the Local Police, but that is not the right agency. The police who deal with “crimes” are the National Police or the Guardia Civil, who are called on 091 or 062 respectively. And of course, in any emergency, just call 112 (equivalent to the UK’s 999), or download the Fress app – see more HERE, or the AlertCops app HERE.
Just to digress briefly, people often say to me that there’s no point in reporting “minor” thefts because the police “won’t do anything if it’s under €400”. It is usually said with an air of contempt for the police which implies they cannot be bothered, or are lazy. The problem is that the idea that “they won’t do anything” is a complete misunderstanding. As in the UK, crimes are treated as serious or minor in order to save and prioritise police time. If they did not do this police would be required to investigate thefts of as little as €1.
The line must be drawn somewhere and in respect of cash thefts, it has been drawn at €400. This is not, however, a line drawn forinvestigative purposes, but judicial ones. Police still record the crime and investigate, but under that amount the courts won’t be involved, so offenders are cautioned instead of being prosecuted. It is the same everywhere, including the UK, and although people might disagree with where the line is drawn, I would think that most people would prefer police time to be devoted to investigating and prosecuting serious crimes, rather than genuinely petty ones. But the police can’t do anything at all unless they know about offences, of any level.
When it comes to police on the street in local patrols, however, that is a council issue, and results from municipal funding priorities. And here, certainly, public lobbying helps. There was a situation a couple of years ago, for example, in Palm Mar, where repeated and significant group pressure on Arona Ayuntamiento resulted in increased patrols and a drop in crime. This second of the two-pronged approach involves achieving increased police visibility in a given area, and in this respect, the Local Police are the ones who will provide that local presence. They will be able to apprehend in cases of crimes in process, though even then it would be the National Police or Guardia Civil who would process the case.
So, to get more Local Police on the streets, residents need to get together and lobby their local Ayuntamientos, who are the employers, municipality by municipality, of the Policias Locales. This takes coordination, time and effort, but as various areas have found, the approach of combined and persistent pressure works. An initial step could be for presidents of communities to hold a general area meeting with some administrators of complexes, and then perhaps a subsequent meeting with council representatives invited to attend as guests.
Ultimately, there will be crime. We are a holiday destination where tourists’ frequent comings and goings facilitate criminals arriving and disappearing with ease, and it is to the great credit of the police (all of them) that there are so many arrests, and so little crime overall. We as the public, however, need to play our part too, and that involves lobbying for our areas instead of hoping the councils will just take care of such matters, and ensuring we’re informed about the various police forces, their areas of responsibility, and how we should deal with them.
There is more information on dealing with the police and courts HERE that may be helpful, and on the new Crime and the Public page HERE. The most important thing to bear in mind, however, is that if there’s a crime, it must be reported, and to the right police force. Policing everywhere is governed by funding, and funding is allocated on a numbers basis: if the police don’t know about a crime they can’t do anything, and to those employing them, it won’t seem that they are even needed.