12 Aug, 2012 @ 13:59
1 min read

Return of the Spanish highwayman

spanish highwayman e

ATTACKS on British tourists by gangs of highway robbers in Spain are becoming increasingly common, according to the British Embassy.

The number of complaints received rose by 10% in the first quarter of the year, although it is believed there are ‘hundreds more’ which go unreported.

The thieves use distraction techniques to target their victims, including creating loud noises, claiming to have vehicle problems and appealing for help.

Hundreds of tourists in British-registered vehicles or hire cars have fallen for the ruse, resulting in them having possessions, passports and money stolen.

Dave Thomas, consular regional director for Spain, said: “Be on your guard against anyone who attempts to stop you or ask you for help.

“They may well be part of a gang operating a scam in which an unseen accomplice will rob you of your things.”

Among the worst affected areas is the AP-7 between the French border and Alicante, with more than 140 cases of theft reported to the British Consulate last year.



  1. What does one do in the case of crooks posing as cops? An earlier report in O.P.described such a scam. How would the police react (real ones) if a panic-stricken tourist ignored a “control” and just kept driving. Would he be liable for a bullet?

  2. The reality of course is that you’re far less likely to be accosted by criminals in Spain than in pretty much any other European country. The UK is actually the European leader of violent crimes, including robbery, assault and homicide.

    Also the Spanish police tend to be very gentle compared to, say Portugal or France, where beatings are common. Or the USA, where getting a bullet is a very real possibility. I highly doubt you would have much of a problem of force if you just kept driving until you found a safe spot to stop. For example,a public, lighted spot with other people around.

    Of course none of this is legal advice and if you are concerned about highwaymen and violent police on the roads in Spain, you should probably talk to a lawyer. You may also just avoid driving completely, hide in a bunker and set up cameras around the premises. Better safe than sorry. Because, you know, Spain is sooooo scary and dangerous.

  3. I think the rules are don’t stop for anything suspicious, and don’t pull over for anyone who says pull over that’s not Guardia, Traffico or Policia Local. Take your mobile phone out and pretend you’re ringing someone to get help. But yeh, Spain is the SAFEST place we’ve ever lived! We’re from Leeds!

  4. If things are so cool, why does O.P. put the wind up us like this? Actually, I agree with the “don’t worry” comments, having driven thousands of kilometers in Spain, the only time we have experienced anything of the sort, was on leaving Liverpool airport, when, ignoring an obvious barmpot waving at us to stop, a five mile motorway chase ensued, luckily, we were faster and a junction was in our favour. But, if the guy, (it was dark) had been dressed half-convincingly as a cop, I would probably have fallen for it.

  5. Reality,
    stop spreading lies – I now live in France and have never heard of the French police beating anyone. If you are referring to the CRS, I suggest you take a look at the uniformed thugs in the UK, especially the proto SA (forunner of the SS)in the Met.

    I did see the Guardia beat an Englishman in a wheelchair at a Seville/Spurs football match – I mean you can really be a hooligan in a wheelchair can’t you.

  6. Stuart – I’m glad to hear that in your limited experience living as a foreigner in France you’ve never heard of the police beating anyone.

    Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International seem to disagree with you, however. I would search through their reports on police brutality in France.

    Perhaps not being Arab or Roma gives you a good deal of insulation from that part of France. If I remember correctly, it was the Roma, not wealthy English expats, who were forcefully removed from their homes. So I understand why you might not have heard about it.

  7. Reality must have missed the recent display of Spanish police brutality peaceful 15M demonstrations. You know, the ones that got the world press coverage recently. Get out more, Reality. lol.

  8. Fred – police beat people everywhere, including Spain. It is just less common than in neighboring countries like France or Portugal.

    Like I said, look up the info on Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International. Spain’s record of policing is a lot cleaner than many of its European neighbors. Italy may actually be a worse offender than Portugal or France; the Italian police regularly use beatings and force in interrogations post-arrest to get confessions.

    Also compare the general public attitude toward the police in France, Portugal (or Australia, UK, USA, etc.) versus that in Spain. Spain is one of the few places where the population at large doesn’t simultaneously hate and fear the police.

    Of course, we see that on the Olive Press also. How many people complain about the police not enforcing the law, not arresting people or generally not being police-y enough. Every time there is a crime-related article you can bet someone will complain that the police aren’t “cracking down,” “stamping out” or whatever else may be the daily preferred euphemism for forceful policing. Conversely, in media from France and the UK most police discussions revolve around some issue of abuse or brutality.

  9. Since Spain only just decided to get a transparancy law I tend to doubt any statistics they publish. Police brutality occurs just as much in Spain as in any country; Spain is just better at covering it up.

  10. Fred – “Since Spain only just decided to get a transparancy law I tend to doubt any statistics they publish. Police brutality occurs just as much in Spain as in any country; Spain is just better at covering it up”

    1. Police brutality occurs just as much (quantitative statement) in Spain; we have no statistics (quantitative statement) to know how much police brutality occurs. You realize these two statements are inconsistent, right?

    Also +1 for unprovable conspiracy theory that Spain is better at covering up the police brutality we aren’t able to measure because we can’t trust Spain.

  11. The subject of police brutality is fascinating. However the subject was Dick Turpin and his merry hombres. Would any member of the estimable Spanish police force care to comment on what they would do, in the face of someone refusing to stop for a “control”?

  12. @Reality: you really know how to provoke a reaction!
    “Spain is one of the few places where the population at large doesn’t simultaneously hate and fear the police”
    Are you insane?
    In the uk you can row with a cop, and win! (depending on circumstances obviously). If you think you’ve been wronged there is clear and easy recourse.
    Here is Spain the spanish wont say anything against any of the authorities. Probably for fear of getting beaten/robbed/disappeared like in the good old days.
    Did you see the story just last month here in OP about the group of cops that were pressing charges against one immigrant who caused thousands of euros of damage to their batons and somehow stained the inside of their car?
    Keep up the good work. you always manage a reaction or two!

  13. I can remember running away from coach loads of police in France battoning people at an event once for no reason (just crowd control apparently), and have certainly seen harsh treatment of people in Spain with the no nonsense military style policing that goes on. In the UK you can tell a policeman to F off. That’s why the kids are unruly in a lot of uk towns on a Saturday night and the cells are full. no fear at all!

    Here’s one tip to prevent Guardia Civil from pulling you over if you’re British. Look gormless, smile, wave at them and have your sat nav on… works every time! haha

  14. David M: You must have been away from U.K. for a long time, because you have such a rosy glow about the Old Bill. Three thousand deaths in custody in the past couple of decades. Number of successful prosecutions? Nil.This clear and easy recourse wouldn’t be the I.P.P.C. Would it? Good luck with that one! Cops are cops wherever you are, face it, they have the power of life and death, given them by the state,who look after their attack dogs. Damn! I got caught up the brutality thread! Back to Dick Turpin!

  15. @stefanjo: It is up to you, and your fellow citizens, to make sure the police behave and obey the rules just like everyone else.
    Reading a few statistics online does not make you authoritive – try living in a few difeerent countries, including the uk. And you will quickly learn the uk police are one of the best, most restrained, civilized, and law abiding forces out there.
    We all know they have mountains of problems that need addressing, but the discussion here is how much worse the continental police forces are. You dont get police stopping motorists and blatently asking for bribes (common in Marbella). Or the police turning up and beating people without provacation (farmers protests spain & france).
    Do you understand now?

  16. The police aren’t CORRUPT in the UK, like nearing Xmas in Spain when they fine you for this and that and you hand over cash, not logged down anywhere, so they can enjoy THEIR Xmas. Spain isn’t a country anyhow.. just a collection of locally governed areas.. all corrupt! Didn’t they get rid of a mayor in Alicante region who was doing things by the book and not taking back handers!

    At least it’s sunny haha : )

  17. @Reality, my actual text was:

    “Since Spain only just decided to get a transparancy law I tend to doubt any statistics they publish. Police brutality occurs just as much in Spain as in any country; Spain is just better at covering it up.”

    You then constructed a new paragraph out of this which plays to your own, flawed, argument.

    Anyway: 1. Spain has only just agreed to implement a transparancy law (fact). 2. I do doubt the government statistics that Spain publishes (fact, as it’s my own opinion). 3. It is also my opinion that police brutality is occuring in Spain and that Spain are very good at burying and obfuscating such facts (not having a transparancy law helps with that of course lol).

    No contradictions there. Best to go back to college in the Autumn and get an education, Reality. That’s one fact we don’t need to prove.

  18. David – “And you will quickly learn the uk police are one of the best, most restrained, civilized, and law abiding forces out there.”

    I agree with you for the most part. Compared to most of Europe (and most of the world) the police in the UK appear very restrained. However, there is a trade off. The UK is a police state. It is far more authoritarian than Spain, France, Italy or Portugal. You would never get hassled for a bribe on the side of the road in the UK – because you’ve got cameras on you 24/7 watching every thing that happens. Corruption is an actual symptom of states that don’t have expansive police infrastructure monitoring the populace at large. When your most minute behaviors are tracked 24/7 then it becomes more difficult to violate the law – for police and civilians.

    In police states (USA, UK, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, etc.), the police are also paid significantly above average. This takes away the motivation for police to solicit bribes. And it goes hand-in-hand with the fact that the police in said states enjoy a great degree of protection from the law. In most cases, as someone else mentioned, if the police do commit a crime they are neither charged, nor convicted if charged. If they are convicted the sentences are significantly lower on average.

    Police states like the UK also have more policing resources financially. This means that, instead of expecting one or two men with batons to control a crowd (as you would see in Spain or Portugal), it is easy to have 10-20 officers immediately on the scene to wrestle a person to the ground. They also have wider access to expensive items for detainment; electrical tasers, stun guns, pepper spray, rubber bullets, etc. Those are preferred over the baton, but are just as brutal. In fact, people die every year from being tased and maced. The supposedly non-lethal methods of control have proven to be more lethal than the stick.

    So when you draw a comparison with a police state – where you have cameras everywhere, the police in body armor, overuse of special ‘non-lethal’ devices, high salaries, special legal protections. etc. – with a couple of low-paid guys given a stick, a gun and car, of course the police state is going to appear more professional at policing. The trade off is that liberty suffers extensively as a result.

    For example, there is a man named Stephen Gough in the United Kingdom. If you look his name up he’s also called the “Naked Rambler” because he refused to wear clothing in public, backpacking around the UK nude. He has spent six years in jail for refusing to wear clothes in the UK. That is what a police state gives you. I would wager he was not once ever solicited for a bribe. However, due to the extremely punitive nature of the legal system in the United Kingdom, and his repeat “offenses,” he ended up spending almost a decade in jail for being naked.

    And the same is true for countless nonviolent offenders in the UK, individuals who have been caught with small amounts of drugs, petty theft, etc. There are thousands spending years in jail right now for small crimes. It is something you would almost never see in modern Spain, where giving someone a lengthy sentence for a petty crime (even if a repeat offender) is considered a violation of their human rights.

    So while it looks nice and shiny on the outside, the legal system of the United Kingdom is far more oppressive than you are ever going to see in Spain (bribes or no bribes).

  19. @reality: you really do have a peculair view on the world. If some bloke is told REPEATEDLY to stop breaking the rules of society, and refuses, then yes he should be removed from society. How many times should you tell some perv to stop waving his wang in front of a school before locking him up?

    And criticising that the public and the police should obey the rules is a strange argument for promoting bribery, corruption, and police brutality.

    When i video the police sticking you with a baton remind me you do NOT want a copy.

  20. David – “If some bloke is told REPEATEDLY to stop breaking the rules of society, and refuses, then yes he should be removed from society.”

    A completely authoritarian view. This is why I contrasted the United Kingdom as a police state versus Spain. In Spain, even if a person repeatedly violates the rules of society – if they break a law – they would have to commit a crime severe enough that they pose an actual threat to society. The fact that they violated a social norm, or a law, isn’t sufficient to bring extreme punishment or deprive a person of their basic human rights. A punishment must be proportionate to the crime. And with some non-violent, victimless crimes there are punishments that will never be proportionate regardless of how many times the crime is repeated.

    If you apply your reasoning consistently then you should also lock up women in Saudi Arabia for driving cars. Women in Somalia or Afghanistan who act “immodestly” must be stoned to death. Those are the rules of rules of society in those societies. Thus, if people don’t follow the rules they need to be “removed.” Or does that only count in the United Kingdom?

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