Is someone stalking your casa? Craig Scott raises the alarm on Spanish home invasions and offers some offbeat survival tips…
WHEN most kids snuggle up in bed, it’s ‘Bogeymen’ or ‘Closet Monsters’ that give them goosebumps. For street-wise scallies like me, however, it was burglars who made my blood run cold. Where I grew up, if something went bump in the night – it wasn’t a fanged creature creeping up the stairs, it was a drug fiend disconnecting your Mega Drive leads.
Hailing from a broken home, I was ‘man of the house’ by aged 10 – and protecting my relatives like a Rwandan child soldier. Forget teeth-brushing and Enid Blyton, my bedtime routine involved fortifying doors and fixing booby-traps.
To film critics – Home Alone was a “cute Christmas comedy,” but for me, it was a crucial survival documentary. Whilst normal kids were laughing at ‘Buzz’ and ‘Uncle Frank’, I was practising forward rolls and coating the coal shed in syrup and glass.
Unlike posh ‘Kevin’, however, who had exotic pet tarantulas and pricy fireworks to call upon, effective weaponry was harder to find in a scarcely-furnished council home. Undeterred, I learnt how to become more creative with my defence mechanisms. For instance, I once created a terrifying torture device out of hedge trimmers and a Magic Mop. Forget SATS, I should have been snapped up by the Ministry of Defence!
Frustratingly, these home-grown techniques seemed redundant once we’d hit Spanish shores. Like most Andalucian homes, our new pad resembled ‘Fort Knox’ – with reinforced doors, barred windows and round-the-clock surveillance. Furthermore, every inch of the urbanisation was patrolled by grimacing guard dogs. For the first time in years, I went to bed without a nailed baseball bat.
Unfortunately, my serenity was short-lived. Whilst enjoying a drink at a seafront chiringuito, I heard two expats bemoaning “ruthless” East European hoodlums. Intrigued, I continued to eavesdrop and learnt that one of them had recently been burgled by a “Bulgarian bastard!”
Although it sounded racist, a Google search yielded some alarming results. I discovered that Balkan gangs regularly commit violent raids in Iberia – and that Spain is now the sixth most burgled country in the world (ahead of America and South Africa). One report claimed that Albanian groups were sailing over, robbing people blind, and then buggering off back to Tirana with a ferry full of loot. If true, then Carme Chacón’s defence policy needs an urgent rethink.
This said, I think it would be short-sighted to blame all Spanish break-ins on ‘Beasts from the East.’ Let’s face it, petty crime has always been rife in sticky-fingered Spain. For centuries, gypsies were known to brazenly enter homes and flee with fast cash and jewellery. More recently, a spiralling heroin problem and mass unemployment have seen crime figures double in the last 20 years.
Today, you’re particularly vulnerable to robberies if you live in Malaga, Seville or anywhere along the Costa del Sol. So how can you minimise your risk? Sometimes, the only way to outfox a thief is to get inside in their minds. Below are Six Things Your Burglar Thinks – But Doesn’t Want You to Know. I’ve also thrown in some ‘Top Tips’ – designed to keep you safe, sound and intruder-free.
1) “Of course I look familiar. I was here last week cleaning your pool. Whilst there, I unlatched the loo window to make my return easier.”
Top tip: Do DIY yourself or use reputable agencies. Just because they’re in the classifieds – doesn’t mean they’re kosher. Take Philip Markoff, the twisted ‘Craigslist Killer’. Having advertised for a babysitter – Markoff butchered the innocent job-seeker who replied. Remember, ANYONE can publish an advert for peanuts. Only hire established people with glowing recommendations.
2) “Love those flowers. That tells me you have good taste.. and that means lots of goodies inside. Also, those toys outside make me wonder what games consoles your kids have.”
Top tip: An Englishman’s home is his castle and there’s nothing wrong with being house proud. However, for people with nothing, your display of wealth is like wafting a burrito under the nose of a Brazilian street child. Don’t show off.
3) “Yes, I really do look for mail piling up in your letter box. And, I might slide a pizza menu halfway under your door – just to see how long it stays there.”
Top tip: Don’t let post pile up. If you travel a lot – befriend a neighbour and ask if they’ll collect your bumpf whilst you’re gone. Plus, once the old crow knows your routine – she’ll be suspicious of any unexpected noises.
4) “Here’s a helpful hint – I virtually never enter kids bedrooms.”
Top tip: Thieves couldn’t give a toss about you, but only Satanists would ransack a child’s room. Plus, what would a burglar want with a Buzz Lightyear? Be extra smart and hide your safe behind Barbie’s Beach House.
5) “Sometimes I hold a clipboard, sometimes I dress like a gardener and carry a leaf-blower. I do my best to never look like a burglar.”
Top tip: Unlike kids’ comic-book villains, real-life burglars don’t wear stripy jumpers or carry ‘SWAG’ bags. Be suspicious of ALL strangers who enter your environment.
6) “Avoid announcing your holiday on Facebook. It’s easier than you think to look up your address.”
Top tip: Open Facebook profiles are like QVC for crooks. Always ensure that you apply the strictest privacy settings and only add “friends” you trust implicitly. An American fugutive was recently snared when cops read he was “living in paradise” in Cancun. He’s now in a Mexican prison and experiencing a different kind of “poking”.
At the risk of sounding like Nick Ross – Crimewatch’s fossil-faced host, please don’t have nightmares about this blog. Back in Britain, a householder is attacked every 30 minutes – and Bulgarians or not – you’re still safer here. The UK is now the second most crime-ridden country in the world – a whopping 16 places above Spain.
Just remain vigilant and never assume that it won’t happen to you. Like it says in the Bible – ‘The wise look ahead to see what’s coming, but fools deceive themselves… to be fore warned is to be prepared.‘ Wise words Jesus ; )
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