Car crime in Spain

How to protect yourself

Car crime in Spain

All European countries have a problem with car theft and thefts from cars, and Spain’s is among the worst (particularly thefts from cars).

National figures indicate that there’s a theft from a car every three minutes in Spain as a whole and even more frequently in the cities of Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia. Foreign-registered vehicles, especially camper vans and mobile homes are popular targets. Some 75 per cent of stolen vehicles are taken from outside the owner’s home and 10 per cent from garages, but fortunately 70 per cent of stolen vehicles are recovered.

If you drive anything other than a worthless heap, you should have theft insurance, which includes your car stereo and belongings. If you drive a new or valuable car, it’s wise to have it fitted with an alarm, an engine immobiliser (preferably of the rolling code variety with a transponder arming key) or other anti-theft device, and to also use a visible deterrent such as a steering or gear change lock.

It’s particularly important to protect your car if you own a model that’s desirable to professional car thieves, e.g. most new sports and executive models (BMWs, Mercedes and large four-wheel drives are favourites), which are often stolen by crooks to order. In the south of Spain, stolen cars often find their way to Africa and may already be on a ferry by the time their owners report them stolen.

Few cars are fitted with deadlocks (Fords are a notable exception) and most can be broken into in seconds by a competent thief. A good security system won’t necessarily prevent someone from breaking into your car or even stop it being stolen, but it makes it more difficult and may persuade a thief to look for an easier target.

Thieves often smash windows (in Spain, BMW stands for ‘break my window’) to steal stereo systems and other articles from cars – even articles of little worth such as sunglasses or cigarettes. When leaving your car unattended, store any valuables, including clothes, in the boot (trunk). Note, however, that if a car is empty, a thief may be tempted to force open the boot with a crowbar. It isn’t advisable to leave your original car papers in your car, which will help a thief dispose of it. When parking overnight or when it’s dark, you should use a secure car park or garage, or at least park in a well-lit area.

Thieves in Spain operate various scams, which include pretending that you have a flat tyre (they may even puncture your tyre in slow-moving or stopped traffic) or that fuel is leaking from beneath your car. While they’re pretending to help fix your car, they steal your belongings (women are popular targets). View any strangers offering to help you with suspicion. Some criminals specialise in robbing motorists at motorway toll booths and there has also been an increasing incidence of highway piracy’, where gangs deliberately bump or ram cars to force drivers to stop (usually late at night when there’s little traffic about). Be on your guard!

If your car is stolen or anything is stolen from it, report it immediately to the police in the area where it was stolen. You can report it by telephone, but must go to the station to complete a report ( denuncia). Don’t, however, expect the police to find it or even take any interest in your loss. Report a theft to your insurance company as soon as possible.

This article is an extract from Living and Working in Spain.
Click here to get a copy now.

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