The majority of people who visit Tenerife never encounter any problems with thieves or pickpockets. However, gangs and individuals do operate on the island, just the same as in any other touristic location, therefore it is good to stay alert.
Thieves and pickpockets like crowded places, where the general hustle and bustle helps them to operate unnoticed. Even better is a place full of people in holiday-mode, who may be slightly less careful and vigilant than during their normal day-to-day lives.
Therefore, be aware when you arrive at the airport, when using public transport and when visiting busy markets or one of the many tourist attractions on the island. Carry your passport, money and personal belongings in a safe place and do not leave them unattended at any time.
Thieves and pickpockets rely on going unnoticed or gaining your trust. Therefore they try to blend in as much as possible. They often achieve this by dressing like tourists. Crowded places can provide a perfect “working environment” for pickpockets, as here they are able to get very close to their potential victims without arousing suspicion.
Professional pickpockets frequently operate in teams of two or more. Distraction is the key to their success. They will often pose as someone trying to be helpful or in need of help.This may divert your attention and allow the thief to come close to you or even make physical contact without alarming you.
Whatever trick is used, the thief will always try to achieve two objectives: To get within close proximity of you and your belongings while at the same time diverting your attention elsewhere.
Some tricks are fairly basic while others are well-thought-out and practised. Thieves and pickpockets can be very creative and, therefore, the individual scams and techniques that are used are far too numerous to list. They may also differ, depending on the setting. Here are some scenarios that will give you a general idea:
The pickpocket poses as a tourist who is lost. He or she is produces a map and asks you to help them work out which way to go. While you are distracted with the task on hand, and with their greedy fingers shielded by the big map they are holding, the pickpocket is able to access your pockets or your bag unnoticed.
This is a technique that usually involves two or more scammers. One of them approaches you and asks whether you could take a photograph of them. While you are busy trying to work out the camera and finding the best angle for the photograph, the thief’s accomplice uses the time to rifle through your bag or takes off with it altogether.
Another “shopper” asks you for help in finding a specific product or in getting an item from a high shelf. Meanwhile, the accomplice uses the opportunity to get your money or bank cards out of your bag.
This may be the most obvious trick but it is still successfully used by thieves. If you have just arrived and are struggling with a heavy bag or suitcase, the friendly person offering their assistance may simply be a kind individual who would like to help out. On the other hand, it could also be a thief preying on unsuspecting tourists, who will use the opportunity to run off with your bag before you have the opportunity to do anything about it.
If you find yourself covered in ice cream by a “clumsy” stranger bumping into you, be wary if the person in question or another passer-by gets too close to you in a very “helpful” attempt to wipe down your clothing. You may find afterwards that it is not only the ice cream that was removed from your person but also your money, jewellery or other valuables you might have been carrying on you.
This technique requires several pickpockets working together and is successfully used on buses or other public transport. When the bus reaches a major stop, one or two of the gang position themselves in such a way that the exit is partly blocked. All the passengers wishing to get off will need to squeeze together to get through the door. This is a fantastic opportunity for another pickpocket to position him- or herself amongst the alighting passengers and to steal from pockets, handbags or rucksacks.
When we are in holiday mode, we tend be more relaxed and care-free and we sometimes forget about some basic precautions we would always take when at home. Thieves will use this to their advantage, so don’t give them the opportunity!
Do not leave any valuable or important items behind in your car. Put bags or clothing, etc in the boot of the car. This will reduce temptation and avoid the car from being broken into.
Be wary of another potential scam that involves slashing the tyres of your hire car. If you return to your car and you find that the tyres are flat, consider that these may have been purposely vandalised. Professional thieves or pickpockets will offer to help and, whilst doing so, one of the party will take your purse/wallet or bags from the car.
The same rules that apply at home also apply to your holiday accommodation. Ensure you lock all doors and windows when you leave your accommodation and lock valuables and money away.
Do not leave the front door open or unlocked when spending time in the garden or by the pool. An easily accessible holiday villa is a perfect opportunity for a thief to snatch a few items while you are sunbathing or chilling in the pool.
Never hand your credit or debit card over to a shopkeeper or waiter without accompanying them. Most restaurants will bring the card reader to your table or it will be at the till.
Being aware of some of the common techniques and remaining alert while on holiday will go a long way in helping you avoid becoming a victim of pickpockets or thieves. Remember that, while you are on holiday, the criminals aren’t!
When on the lookout for potential victims, pickpockets will usually go for the most lucrative-looking and easily-accessible target. You will be a less attractive option if you don’t wear expensive jewellery or clothing and if you keep your cash and cards out of sight and reach.
The emergency number for police, fire and ambulance in Spain and Tenerife is 112. In tourist resorts, English speakers are usually on duty.
If you have been a victim of crime you must make a report (“denuncia”), to the police. You will need to produce a copy of this report, if you make a claim against your insurance company for any items that have been stolen.
Policia Local. The local town force deals with relatively minor issues such as traffic control and protection of property.
Cuerpo Nacional de Policia. Deal with slightly more serious crimes than the Policia Local. They are usually the point of contact for robbery, street crime etc in urban areas.
Guardia Civil. The Civil Guard has the greatest powers and is responsible for general policing in rural areas. They deal with serious issues such as anti-terrorism, weapon control, drug smuggling etc.