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The places in Spain where burglaries have gone up during the pandemic

The Local
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The places in Spain where burglaries have gone up during the pandemic
Photo: Unespa, TheDigitalWay/Pixabay

There were more than 100,000 burglaries in Spain in 2020 and a new study shows just how criminals have adapted their modus operandi to take advantage of the country’s state of alarm and lockdowns.


Burglaries and shop/business thefts actually dropped by 27 percent overall in Spain in 2020 compared to the previous year, according to the latest Interior Ministry figures.

However, it’s a bittersweet figure for the Spanish government as despite the lower rate of criminality during a year marked by everyone being locked up at home, 103,293 reported cases of breaking and entering were still able to take place.

A recent study by Spanish insurance company UNESPA sheds some light on how burglars have been able to get around Covid-19 restrictions, and as result certain areas have seen an increase in burglaries.

The main conclusion they’ve drawn is that burglars - ladrones in Spanish - have taken their illicit business to the coast, especially Spain’s Mediterranean regions.


Where have burglaries been happening the most in Spain?

Taking the national average for burglaries per province, UNESPA’s study found that the three provinces with the highest burglary rates were all in Catalonia.

The report classified different provinces according to a percentage of probability of burglary, compared to the national average. 

Girona (+89.4 percent), Tarragona (+65.8 percent) and Barcelona (+56 percent) were the three provinces in Spain where homeowners were most likely to suffer a burglary, followed by Murcia in Spain’s south east with +46.1 percent.

The rest of the provinces with the highest likelihood of suffering a burglary were on the coast with the exception of Toledo (+20.4 percent), such as Huelva in Andalusia (+18.4 percent), Lérida in Catalonia (+18 percent), Alicante in the Valencia region (+18 percent), Vizcaya in the Basque Country (12 percent), Valencia province (5.9 percent) and neighbouring Castellón (4.8 percent).

The cities and towns (municipalities) where burglaries are most common are almost all in Catalonia: Gerona, Sant Cugat del Vallès, Barcelona, Mataró, Reus, Badalona, Santa Coloma de Gramanet, Murcia, Rubí and Torrevieja.

According to UNESPA, which used data from 27 companies that insure 11.8 million homes located in Spain, all of provinces with a higher chance of burglaries have in common the abundance of second homes that have been unoccupied for weeks and months during Spain’s lockdowns.

"While a burglar who enters a flat in a city tries to act quickly to avoid being discovered by the neighbours and takes valuables that aren’t very bulky", in summer homes that are isolated criminals “have more time to work", the study explains.

As a result, the average value of goods stolen during burglaries in Spain has risen to €1,333. In the provinces of Barcelona, ​​Girona, Pontevedra, Lleida and Navarra, the figure is higher still: €1,600 to €1,700.


It’s worth noting that the study took data from 78,000 burglaries that were carried out from the summer of 2019 to the summer of 2020, so it doesn’t just encompass the period since the Covid pandemic began in Spain.

During the first three months of 2020, before the state of alarm was declared, burglars managed to carry out 31,933 burglaries in Spain.

Other studies and police reports from 2020 have shown that burglaries did plummet during the early and strictest months of lockdown (March to May) but as soon as Spain’s deconfinement began, burglars were able to take advantage of the abundance of properties that remained empty during the summer.

Last September, Malaga police confirmed this trend, as international criminal gangs took advantage of reopened travel routes to and out of Spain to break into empty properties in the Costa del Sol.

UNESPA's map showing the likelihood of a burglary taking place in each of Spain's provinces (alta meaning high, baja meaning low)

The Spanish provinces with fewest burglaries

The Spanish provinces with the lowest rate of burglaries were the North African city of Ceuta (-76 percent), Las Palmas in the Canary Islands (-51 percent), Teruel in Aragón (-50 percent) and a number of other locations in Spain’s interior, the Canary Islands and Galicia in the northwest.

The case of the Spanish capital is also surprising as the rate of burglaries in Madrid fell to 14.6 percent below the national average, with nearby provinces such as Toledo and Guadalajara having a higher rate of break-ins.

According to locksmith specialists UCES, 80 percent of Spanish homes were built before the 1990s, and in the majority of cases, the locks to the main doors haven’t been updated since then.



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