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.