POLICE in the south of Spain have issued an alert for the public to be on their guard for pickpockets ahead of Semana Santa (Easter week) which sees a huge influx in the number of foreign tourists.
Officers in Sevilla have taken the unusual step of releasing photographs of some of the suspects they say are targetting tourists around the Cathedral, Giralda and Plaza de España.
National and Local Police say the organised groups of foreign pickpockets do not fear the law as often only a fine could be imposed if the robbery was committed without violence or intimidation and the value of items stolen did not exceed €400.
Tourist guides have been alerted to the problem and have been asked to make their clients aware of the issue.
Police say that the number of organised gangs of pickpockets increases in the capital of Andalucia ahead of Semana Santa and the city’s Feria de Abril – two events that draw huge numbers of tourists to the city.
Visitors are being advised to ‘adopt protective measures’ and look after their belongings. Police advise carrying backpacks on the chest instead of on the back.
Last year police discovered more than 100 thieves operating in the city centre.
The UK’s official foreign travel advice for Spain says: “Most visits to Spain are trouble-free, but you should be alert to the existence of street crime, especially thieves using distraction techniques.
“Thieves often work in teams of two or more people and tend to target money and passports. Don’t carry all your valuables in one place, and remember to keep a photocopy or scanned copy of your passport somewhere safe.
“In some city centres and resorts, thieves posing as police officers may approach tourists and ask to see their wallets for identification purposes. If this happens to you, establish that the officers are genuine and if necessary show some other form of ID. Genuine police officers don’t ask to see wallets or purses.”
The advice goes on: “In any emergency, call 112. To report a crime, including stolen property and lost or stolen passports, visit the nearest Policia Nacional, regional police (Ertzaintza in the Basque Country, Mossos d’Esquadra in Catalonia, and Policia Foral in Navarre) or Guardia Civil station to file a police report (denuncia).
“While in Spain, you can also call a dedicated English-speaking police line on +34 90 210 2112. If you’ve had belongings stolen, you’ll need to keep the police report for insurance purposes. If your passport is lost or stolen, you’ll also need the report to apply for an emergency travel document from the nearest British Consulate and to apply for a replacement passport when you return to the UK.”