Police plead with public to denounce “petty crime” like pickpocketing to them rather than Facebook

Updated 21 March 2018: It’s a couple of years since I made the post below, and it’s almost certainly because of the time of year, but pickpocketing is up, and complaints are too. I frequently receive messages saying that Facebook groups are full of complaints about the police, and as I always have to reply, the police do what they can but the real problem is that people will simply not denounce these crimes, and without denuncias, the police cannot get more officers on the beat. Please read the post below from two years ago, and do be aware that the police frequently communicate their efforts to combat these sorts of crime and are frustrated by complaints that they are not interested. Without denuncias, however, police simply cannot know about crimes, and if they don’t know about them they can’t target areas, nor claim greater numbers of officers, and so it continues.

Please also see THIS page , as well as this example of a very frequent Guardia Civil advert: it says that pickpockets operate in busy places and on public transport, that the public should not let down their guard to keep their belongings safe, and that they should denounce any crimes, including any photos that are taken of the alleged thieves. It is worth emphasizing that it is actually illegal to publish photos of someone, including posting them on Facebook, without their consent even if the images are captured while the person is committing a crime: the Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (AEPD) can issue fines into the thousands of Euros against anyone publishing such images. The only advice that it’s possible to give is not to publish photos, nor denounce to Facebook, but denounce the facts with the images to the police!


Original post 24 February 2016: I need to clear something up, and the easiest way to do it is to quote a message I received this morning. This went:

There was a picture of some pickpockets on Facebook and they’re the same ones who robbed my friend last week, they got away with very little so he didn’t see the point in going to the police, but since then I’ve heard of an app or site where you can report this kind of activity without the hassle of actually filling in forms at the police station. Could you point me in the right direction for my friend as he believes police should be made aware so they can put extra resources in the right area?

There are several misunderstandings in this enquiry. First of all the app referred to is Fress, which is an Emergency 112 app that I posted about HERE this time last year. Since it’s an emergency application it cannot be used instead of denuncias. It is to report crimes in progress and as part of the app’s function, photos of the crime can be included. Like any emergency line, however, whether 112 throughout Europe or 999 in the UK, you can’t do it in retrospect.

After the event, crimes must be denounced. 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 for investigative 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.

Moreover, denuncias have a direct effect on a police presence in an area: the more denuncias, the more police, it’s that simple. And without going through the process of denouncing crimes, without accepting “the hassle of actually filling in forms” as the enquirer this morning put it, the police are unable to allocate the correct resources because on paper it appears that there is no need for them. The only way the need becomes evident is if they have reports. How can the public refuse “the hassle” of reporting a crime which they are complaining about and then slate the police for failing to act on something they cannot be aware of?

It is understandable if people don’t report crimes because they think they won’t be acted on, but I hope this explains that the €400 issue is not one of whether or not the police will act, but of whether they caution or prosecute the offender, and of allowing police and Court resources to be prioritised. Without denuncias, there will be no police presence. With denuncias, reports will be compiled and collated, and police presence will increase … even if, under €400, it is treated as a “petty crime” for judicial purposes. Anyone who is a victim of a crime that they consider a crime must also, surely, now consider it worth “the hassle” of denouncing it.


  1. Also for insurance purposes one needs a crime number.

  2. Author

    Indeed so, but I think with just cash thefts, people are reluctant to claim on insurance anyway, assuming they have it, because of the problem of proof.

  3. It’s useful to know that denuncias can be made in English and other languages by telephone on 902 10 21 12. I think you have to go to the police station to sign it afterwards but it will all have been prepared in advance, drastically reducing the time and paperwork and eliminating the need for an interpreter for non-Spanish speakers. The requirement to attend and sign is certainly the case for denuncias submitted by internet but that may still be a preferred alternative to “filling in forms” at the police station. There is a link to this and details of the telephone service here: http://policia.es/denunweb/den_tel_es.html

  4. Author

    And more info in English on that telephone denuncia on my page “Dealing with the police and Courts” HERE.

  5. Again ,around the San Eugenio /Puerto Colon area there has been an upturn in muggings & pickpocketting – as you say ,the time of the year .
    I´m not sure how many have been reported but the police must be well aware of the issue surely ?
    Illegally park your car & it will have a Grua there in minutes – I had caught a Burglar last year & it took 15 mins for them to arrive from a mile away !

  6. We got burgled in our third floor apartment fifteen years ago. There were very obvious, strong hand prints and footprints where the burglar had climbed over five apartments to get to ours. We went to the Guardia Civil to report/obtain a crime number so that we got reimbursed by our insurance company. We were instructed by the police to go home and wait as they were sending out their forensic team. We are still waiting!

  7. Author

    though different police forces, of course.

  8. The problem is, you only report a crime if it has actually happened – in the last 3 weeks I have been aware of 3 attempts to rob, two to me and the third to an elderly couple walking nearby and it is only because I am extremely vigilant that the robbers were not successfull in each case.
    What do I do? How am I supposed to make police aware? Two out of 3 of these attempts were in broad daylight, each time by eastern europeans.
    In the case of the elderly couple, the robbers (4 of them) gave my husband a torrent of abuse because he shouted to the couple to make them aware of what was happening.
    A police presence is definitely needed. If I could have flagged down a passing police car it might have helped.
    Everyone I know has either been robbed themselves or knows someone who has – what a sad state of affairs it is for Tenerife. I have been coming here for 25 years and the last 5 years have definitely been worse.
    Yes I know it happens in all big cities nowadays but the older visitors in the winter months here are definitely the ones being targeted the most.

  9. Author

    You can denounce an attempted crime. You are not required only to denounce a crime that has actually taken place. This is an annual wave, as I reported HERE several years ago. It is the same every year, but the police response is the same too. Sadly, though, also the same is British people’s reluctance to denounce. I don’t really understand why there is such a difference to other nationalities.

  10. I believe many people have themselves to blame they walk about with mobile phones sticking out their back pocket or wallets on show. I know this does not give anyone the right to take them but surely people must take some responsibility for their belongings. How many times must they be warned. Is a case of it won’t happen to me. Then the remarks are why bother going to police they won’t do anything about it. Of course they won’t if you don’t tell them.

  11. Thank you Janet, I wasnt aware I could denounce for an intended crime.
    As for further comments as above regarding people often having themselves to blame, I am sure that is right in some cases, but certainly not in the majority of the ones I have knowledge about.
    Outside the El Mirador complex in Los Cris a man gave my husband a leaflet as we were stood talking to a friend – he then tried to give me one, which I refused, so he immediately tried to push the 2nd leaflet into front pocket of my husbands shorts whilst laughing, pretending it was a game. I immediately knocked his hand away and shouted at him to go away, which he did. Another couple spproached us to say he had just done the same thing with them- we believe he was feeling in the pocket to see if there was a wallet etc there.
    Two days later we saw a group of 4 men try the same thing on a very elderly couple on the walkway down to Puerto Colon. When we shouted a warning and walked towards them they split up into pairs and faded away, not before giving us a mouthful of abuse as I said in earlier post.
    Both these happened daytime.
    The final attempt was when we were walking along at San Eugenio about 11.15pm when we passed a lone man just standing on the pavement looking around. As we passed him I knew he had clocked us and we were aware he had started to follow behind us as we were just about to go down the hill towards Harleys. We sat down on a bench and stared at him so he turned around and went back up the hill again. I had a small shoulder bag which I assume he was interested in.
    I already dont carry a phone, extra cash or credit cards – now I am reduced to not even being able to have a small bag with me.
    Perhaps the English papers in Tenerife could make more people aware a denouncia can be made for attempted robbery, then at least the police may get a better idea of areas where it is happening most.

  12. I’m afraid I disagree Janet. I was pick pocketed at airport 2 weeks ago and my daughter’s passport was stolen along with a considerable amount of money. Police in airport did not care or want to know.

  13. Author

    That is almost certainly because they are the Guardia Civil, and not equipped to take denuncias at the airport, but are there to control illegal entries of people and products, and involed in counter terrorism policing. The place for denuncias is the main policia nacional.

  14. I was robbed off my gold bracelet and gold chain ,,was 3 black women had hands in my pockets to protect my money and phone . Was done in seconds reported it a minute later to police who done nothing. .reported it to police next day ,told me they have never heard anyone being robed as if I was telling lies

  15. Sorry, but the work that has to go into denouncing anything is enormous.

    Whilst the phone call is easy enough, you then have to follow it up at the Policia Nacional, where you usually have to wait up between 2 and 4 hours.

    If the police are aware of what’s going on, it’s about time they put some resources into it to protect the reputation of the HUGE industry that is Tourism in Tenrfie

  16. Author

    The problem is that the police can only do that if they are given the resources – i.e. the funding – by Government. And regardless of what the police on the spot know, funding is decided in Madrid where they don’t know. Funding is determined by statistics, and without denuncias, there are no statistics to provide the means to put some resources into it!

  17. At Las Chafiras today, 15/02/2017,I was stood on the pavement opposite China Town, a male and female approached me whilst I was answering my mobile. He was carrying a tourist map. I stopped my phone call and put the phone in my front pocket. He then pointed to an area on the map and “where” . The female came to my side and also pointed to same area on The map. Luckily I felt this situation wasn’t right. I felt the females other hand in my pocket. I pushed her away and started shouting “Robbers” . They backed away with the female making out she was phoning the police because I had pushed. They proceeded away but unfortunately for them I had seen them get out a light blue Fiat Panda. I used my phone to photo this car . When the male saw what I was doing he ran back towards me and his car , he drove off picking up the female further down the road, but not before I had taken a photo of female. Within a few minutes I saw Policia Local coming down the road. I stopped their car and explained the situation. They immediately broadcast they vehicle description with registration and description of male also female in photo. They took my name and phone number and left.
    Do I still need to do a Denuncia?

  18. Author

    Yes, because the police you dealt with were the local police, whereas denuncias need to be made to the National Police who are responsible for dealing with this sort of crime in general, even though the Policía Local help in a specific instance of a crime being committed.

  19. Wow Im shocked that this sort of thing is going on in such a small island, been there a couple of times,’m going over in March, am going looking to buy a house to live in the northeast, I know that there is crime everywhere, but if they are in your face like this it’s not good,

  20. We were victims of pickpockets today in Playa d’Arena. Fortunately my husband was suspicious of to young women who were behind us and when I noticed my backpack had been unzipped they also checked theirs and said they had also been robbed, They then went into the council park area checking waste bins, which seemed strange. We followed and fortunately a tourist who could see we were distressed advised there was a purse in one, it was mine. The only way it could have got there was by one of the women putting it there and when we left upset they would retrieve it. I now wear my backpack in front and only carry Mininal cash and put my purse at the bottom of my bag with other items on top. We consider ourselves very lucky thanks to the observant tourist. A warning to everyone.

  21. Author

    Please report it to the police. The more information they have the better they can resource and acct on the problem.

  22. I directed a friend here on holiday to the new tourist police office in Puerto Santiago yesterday after her bag was stolen. She was turned away saying that she couldn’t report crimes there! So what is it for?

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