The sad reality of living in Spain is that you’ll likely have something stolen from you. Be it bikes, wallets, cell phones or other valuables, as a foreigner you are a pickpocket’s main prey. However, registering a complaint with the police, called a denuncia, will help you make insurance claims and in some cases recuperate your stolen belongings.
Police can also help you register complaints for domestic abuse, threats, a car accident or simply bad customer service.
Please remember, if you’ve had your wallet stolen, your absolute first step is to alert your bank and credit card companies, both home and abroad to cancel your cards. We also recommend keeping copies of your NIE and passport at home as well as proof of residency should the originals be lost or stolen.
Where do I go?
The Spanish National Police, known as the Cuerpo Nacional de Policia or Nacionales, is the body responsible for taking and registering denuncias. Look up your local commissary or comisaría here.
Remember that you’ll need to go to a comisaría and not a jefetura or Police Headquarters, which specializes in passport and DNI services but does not register denuncias. Even if you file over the phone in English, your form will need to be signed and picked up at your nearest police station.
We recommend going to the station nearest to where your robbery or incident took place, as the officers assigned to that prescient will know the zone well. It is not necessary to make an appointment ahead of time.
What should I bring with me?
The better prepared you are for registering your complaint the easier it will be to make one.
Upon arrival you will be asked to check-in at the front desk by presenting a valid form of ID (a NIE, passport or photocopy in their absence will suffice). You will then be instructed to wait and told who is in line in front of you. Respect the order.
When it’s your turn, you will be led to a separate office, asked for your photo ID again and told to detail the time and place that the robbery occurred to the best of your knowledge. All of this information will be listed in the police report. If you are not confident in your Spanish abilities, ask a friend or roommate to help.
What was stolen?
Depending on what item was stolen, there is specific information you should bring with you to the police station.
Electronics: Electronics come with a production or series number. If it’s a phone, it’s called an IMEI in Spain and can be found on the original packaging (this is the number the phone company will ask you for, should you want to block the terminal in case of theft). This number must be given in order to register the denuncia.
You can also download an app called Plan B on your Android or iPhone, which will send out a signal that locates the device. This could prove helpful to police.
Bike or vehicle: Provide the license plate number of the car, called the matrícula, as well as its color, make, model and any dings or dents. The same goes for bikes.
Personal belongings: Pictures are most helpful in this case. Ask the officer if you can email them to the commissary’s official email address as an addendum to your denuncia. List as many details as you can – if it’s jewelry, an imperfection. If it’s a bag or suitcase, list the contents.
Truth be told, it can be difficult to recuperate your lost items in Spain, particularly if they are valuable. Should your stuff show up on a website like Mil Anuncios or in a flea market, having a denuncia will allow police to seize the item you’ve registered.
What will the police ask me?
The police will inquire as to the nature of the robbery and if were hurt or threatened in any way. If violence was used, you have the right to take the perpetrator to court.
By giving as many details as possible, you can help catch the thief and recover your stolen belongings.
You’ll walk away with two sheets of paper: one that outlines your rights and another that lists the main details of the theft and the case number. If you’d like a copy of the denuncia itself, ask for one.
How can I avoid getting pick-pocketed?
Seasoned expats in Spain joke that being robbed is a rite of passage, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some ideas to help avoid this unfortunate circumstance:
- Never leave your bag or cell phone on a chair or table – keep it in front of you or on your lap.
- Choose the right type of bag or purse that shuts with a zipper or flaps to deter would be pickpockets from easy access to your wallet or phone.
- Consider taking out insurance for electronics. If you pay a few euros a month, you may be able to get a replacement by presenting your denuncia to your insurance provider.
- Lock your bike or scooter with quality locks, as the cheaper coils are easily cut. Better yet, get two.
- Walk confidently and try to avoid calling attention to yourself.
Spain in general is a safe place, but petty robbery is a reality and occurs often to students, expats and even locals. Stay safe and know your rights.
Have you recently gotten robbed in Spain? Send us an email if you’re unsure of where to go or what to do. We’ve been through it and are happy to help!