Police in Spain
Spain has three types of police force much to the confusion of visitors to the country. Some autonomous regions, like the Basque Country, will even have a fourth. Each has their own defined policing role, distinctive uniform and training. All three groups are armed. It is vital you carry the correct documentation in your car especially your insurance documentation.
Each police force has different powers and roles and you will frequently see the police operating roadblocks where they pull you over and inspect the car, it’s contents and your documents. As you are bound to be stopped sooner or later it is wise to know what they are looking for and how you can stay on the right side of the law.
The Policia Locale, or Municipal Police
Wear navy uniforms with blue shirts and are responsible for enforcing compliance with the local town or village laws. Parking, traffic control, excessive noise, neighbour problems and making sure bars and places of entertainment close on time, comply with gambling laws and similar minor offences.
They are usually accessible and helpful and are your first port of call if you have a grievance against a neighbour or business.
Those British new to Spain will sooner or later come across the word ‘denuncia’ and confuse this with the similar English phrase ‘to denounce’ meaning to make public an accusation. In Spain the meaning is similar but does not have such strong connotations. If you wish the Policia Locale to assist you in, for instance, a problem with a neighbour’s noisy dog, you will be expected to make a denuncia (complaint) before they will consider taking any action.
The Policia Nacional
Usually wear black uniform with white shirts and are responsible for dealing with most crime and with the overseeing of foreigners (extranjeros).
There will be a Policia Nacional police station in major towns and cities where foreigners needing a resident permit or other documentation will have to apply to obtain the necessary residence card or permit.
As in other countries the Policia Nacional has specialised units to deal with illegal immigration, drugs, fraud, money laundering, murder and organised crime, etc. If you are the victim of a crime you should report it to your local Policia Nacional police station.
The Guardia Civilia
The Guardia Civil, in General Franco’s day, was the force that most foreigner visitors were aware of with their distinctive hats and green formal uniforms.
That has now changed, no longer do they stand guard at little huts a kilometre apart along the Southern coast and beaches making sure that no smuggling took place from Gibraltar and North Africa.
Nowadays you can expect the Guardia Civilia to be present in country areas where there may be a Guardia police station to deal with crimes instead of a Policia Nacional station in the smaller or outlying villages.
Among their responsibilities is to patrol the roads and motorways, mounting speed traps, random breath tests and checking that driving licenses, insurance, ITVs (MOTs) and other motoring documents are in order.
It is an offence not to have your license, insurance, etc. with you when driving. As random checks by the Guardia are fairly common, it is best to keep your motoring papers in your car and your driving licence in your wallet or purse at all times.
You may be unaware that you have committed a motoring offence until you get a fine through the post. Pay up within 10 days and you will get a 30% discount.
The Guardia will also assist you if you have a roadside breakdown.
The Guardia Civilia mount border and sea patrols and security to prevent illegal immigration, drug and other illegal activities. They are responsible for bomb disposal and other anti terrorist activities, computer crime and other hi tech law enforcement.
Police Phone Numbers
Coordination centre urgencies: 112
Guardia Civil general number: 062
Local Police general number: 092
Fire alarm general number: 085
What to do if you are arrested in Spain
If you are arrested you will be given the free services of a duty solicitor (abogado de oficio), who may not understand English.
You are entitled to make a phone call.
If you use this to contact your embassy or consulate, they will only be able to refer you to a lawyer who speaks your language or pass details to your next of kin etc. However, if you end up in court, the authorities are obliged to provide a translator.
The Costa Blanca Neighbourhood Watch
The following is taken from a leaflet on crime prevention produced by the CBNW.
Costa Blanca Neighbourhood Watch is a voluntary organisation seeking no profit, without any Political/ Religious inclinations, independent from any other Association or Group, but with communication channels with the local Police, Guardia Civil and the Town Hall, reporting suspicious situations of people or groups, vandalism or any other strange or suspicious acts that could threaten the well being and safety of the Residents.The Neighbourhood Watch is a method of developing close liaison between households in a neighbourhood, the Police, Guardia Civil and the local Authority. The main aim is to help people protect themselves and their property, to reduce the fear of crime. We wish to develop improved home security, greater vigilance, to foster a community spirit and to help the old and vulnerable.
This is a leaflet about crime and what you can do to prevent it. It is the job of the Police to fight crime, but we can help to bring crime down. Most crimes are against property, not people, and not many crimes are carefully planned. Most are committed by young men on the spur of the moment when they see the chance: possessions left in
cars or a door or window to a house left open. But you can try to reduce the risk by securing your car and home. This will also help the Police, by giving them more time to tackle serious crime. That is good for you and your family, because it makes your neighbourhood a safer place to live.
The chances that you or a member of your family will be a victim of violent crime are low. Nevertheless many people are frightened that someone close to them may be the victim of an attack, and the best way to reduce the risk of attack is by taking sensible precautions. Make sure that your house or flat is secure. Always secure outside doors. If you have to use a key, keep it nearby, you may need to get out quickly in the event of fire. Don’t give keys to workmen or tradesmen, as they
can easily make copies. A telephone extension in your bedroom helps you to feel more secure because you can phone the nearest Co-ordinator or the Police when needed. Never reveal information about yourself to unknown people and never say you are alone. Equally, keep all keys out of sight at all times. Thieves may steal them and then return to finish their crime at a later date. If you think you may have mislaid your keys, get them replaced immediately.
Use only your surname and initials in the phone directory, on the doorplate, and, if you have one, beside an entry system button. If you see signs of a break in at your home, don’t go in, see your nearest Coordinator in your area or phone the District Policeman or the Police. If you are selling your home, don’t show people around on your own. Please use professional accredited estate agents. When you answer
the phone say only hello, don’t give your number. If you receive an abusive or threatening phone call, put the receiver down beside the phone, don’t say anything and walk away. This allows the caller to say what he wants. Come back later to replace the receiver. This may help the Police trace the caller. Always keep the emergency services’ telephone numbers close to your phone. In a panic situation you might forget the correct number. If in doubt call 112.
Out and About
Carry your bag close to you with the clasp facing inwards. Carry your house and car keys in your pockets. If someone grabs your bag, let it go. If you hang on, you could get hurt. Your safety is more important than your property. If you walk home in the dark, get a
personal attack alarm. Carry it in your hand so you can use it immediately to scare off an attacker. If you go running, jogging or cycling regularly, try to vary your route and time. Stick to well lit roads with pavements; avoid short cuts or dark alleys; walk facing the traffic; if a car stops and you are afraid scream and shout; get away as quickly as you can; don’t hitch-hike or take lifts from strangers.
If you think you are being followed and you have double-checked by crossing the street, try to go to the nearest place where there are other people. Don’t go to a phone box, as the attacker could trap you there.
Parking Places, Taxis and Public Transport
If you are going to be out late, try to arrange a lift home or book a taxi; check that the taxi collecting you is the one you ordered; get the name of the taxi company and sit behind the driver. When you arrive home ask the driver to wait until you are inside your house. On Public Transport try to stay away from isolated bus stops, especially after dark; sit near to the driver. On a train, sit in a
compartment where there are several people. If you drive a car, think about getting a car phone; make sure that your car is in good condition; keep doors locked when driving, and keep any bag, car phone or valuables out of sight. If you think you are being followed, try to alert others by flashing your lights and sounding your horn. Make as much noise as possible. If you can, keep driving, until you come to a busy place, a police, fire or ambulance station or a pub. Make sure you have enough
money and petrol. Always carry a spare petrol can, warning triangles and a torch. After dark, park in a well lit area. Look around before you get out. Have your key ready when you go back to your car. Make sure there is no-one in the car. Never cross the carriageway to use a phone. Look around. If someone approaches you, lock yourself in the car and speak to them through a small gap in the window, try to move your car and get away.
A thief only needs a moment to make off with your valuables. Your coat hung up in a restaurant, your briefcase beside your chair; even your cheque book and cheque card left on the table while you pay the bill. Don’t look away; try to be careful at all times. Money,
plastic cards – please don’t make it easy for the pick-pocket. Keep your purse and wallets safe at all times. Keep your cheque card separate from your cheque book – a thief needs both to write a cheque. Never let your handbag out of your sight. Have a safe in your house. Watch your mobile phone and your passport.
Harassment, Domestic Violence, Assault
Everyone can help protect their community, family and their home by taking the simple crime prevention measures described in this booklet but some crimes fall into a different category. They are committed for purely racial reasons. Racial harassment, domestic violence, assault at home, at work, in the Community, on the street – the Police and Neighbourhood Watch can help you. Help us to help you!
Alcohol and Drugs
Most people are aware that drinking to excess can damage their health. Drinking and driving are the main cause of accidents on the road and off the road. Young people, like adults, need to know how to drink safely.
Set a good example by drinking sensibly yourself. Children pick up their early knowledge of alcohol by watching adults and are strongly influenced by what they see.
Absence from Home
Most burglaries happen when a house or flat is empty. Don’t advertise your absence when you are on holiday or even out at work or shopping. Mark your valuable possessions with your postcode or other identification.
Over a quarter of all recorded crimes are car thefts or thefts from cars. It is a problem that affects us all no matter where we live. It takes up valuable Police time and can have serious and
sometimes fatal consequences. Keep your car safe, make sure that all doors and windows are locked; don’t leave belongings in your car, nothing must be on display; remove the ignition keys; always try to park in a well-lit location. Look around at all times.
House and Garden
A lot of burglaries can be prevented. Most are committed by opportunist thieves and in two burglaries out of ten the thief does not have to force his way in because a door or window has been left open. Burglars like easy opportunities. They don’t like locked windows
because breaking glass attracts attention; they don’t like security deadlocks on doors because they cannot open them even from the inside and they have to get out through a window. So have good doors and windows with double locks; good gates and fences; secure your garage; get an alarm. By putting some chairs, shoes, towels on the terrace it makes it look as if somebody is in the house.
Bicycles and Motorcycles are a popular target with the thieves because they can be easily sold. They should be locked whenever you leave them, even if you are just going into a shop. Mark their frames.
Make sure that your garden shed is always locked and that your garden tools are well stored and secured.
Protecting Your Computer from Crime
Computer equipment is an increasingly popular target for thieves. Mark your property.
If you have a portable computer, keep it out of sight.
Keeping Records, Data Protection, Communication
Keep information within the law. Data helps the Association to develop. . Speak with your neighbour, communicate with your Co-ordinator; be friendly with everybody.
You And The Law.
You must be reasonable when facing serious situations and must only use reasonable force to protect yourself and your home. Firearms of any sort must be registered with the police.
Local Police and Guardia Civil
With police officers and interpreters available at their local stations, the Police, respond to all the Residents or Coordinators phone calls or faxes.
The Local Police and Guardia Civil personnel pass the information to the patrol and surveillance Policemen in the area.
Once the Local Police or Guardia Civil have investigated the case they will contact the Association with the results of the investigation.
Rotation Service Between Areas
There is a rotation of information service between the different urbanizations and barrios of Torrevieja, especially relating to stolen cars and suspicious or wanted people.
The Local Police and. Guardia Civil recommend that you make a denuncia. (a report) Please don’t be afraid to report any criminal act or suspicious occurrence.
Useful Spanish Phrases when dealing with the Police
|A lot of noise, loud music||Mucho Ruido, Música Alta|
|A suspect car||Coche sospechoso|
|Breaking, damaging||Rompiendo, Dañando|
|Credit cards, keys||Tarjetas de Crédito, Llaves|
|Damaging property||Dañando propiedad|
|Domestic violence||Violencia doméstica|
|Fight in the street||Pelea en la calle|
|I live in||Mi domicilio (Yo vivo)|
|It is near to||Está cerca de|
|I have a problem||Tengo un problema|
|I have been robbed in the street||Me han robado en la calle|
|My name is||Mi nombre es|
|My house has been robbed||Me han robado en casa|
|Robbing a house||Robando en una casa|
|Suspicious people||Gente sospechosa|
|Wallet,jewellery, documents||Cartera, Joyas, Documentos|