With burglaries on the increase, what are thieves after?

The safe in the flat below burglars tried to hammer out of the wall at 4am.
The safe in the flat below burglars tried to hammer out of the wall at 4am.

Burglaries are on the increase around Spain so it helps to know what thieves are after to avoid offering an easy target.

Take Catalonia, for example. Burglaries increased 10% in the region last year, although the good news for holiday-home owners is that almost 80% of robberies involved primary housing. Second homes don’t tend to contain the objects that most thieves are after.

Last summer the two flats above me in central Barcelona were burgled, and a few months ago I was woken up at four in the morning by a loud banging noise. It took me a while to work out that thieves were in the flat downstairs trying to hammer the safe out of the wall (see picture above).

Over Christmas a good friend of mine was robbed of all his worldly possession. He went home to his mother’s house for Christmas with an overnight bag, and when he got back to Barcelona he found his flat had been emptied. They took everything, clothes and shoes included. However, that is an unusual case. Most of the time burglars are after four things:

1. CASH: The target of choice as it’s the most liquid and untraceable asset there is. The crisis and loss of confidence in the banking system mean that more people are hiding their savings under the mattress, and sales of safes have exploded.
2. GOLD AND JEWELLRY: Another liquid asset that is easy to dispose of and hard to trace. It helps that the gold prices has been high in recent years.
3. DEVICES: Computers, smart phones, tablets, laptops, digital cameras, and the latest gaming devices. High value and easy to carry and sell.
4. DOCUMENTS: Identity cards, driving licences, credit cards, and bank statements. High value for identify theft.

In my experience a good deterrent is a security alarm service with radio backup, and stickers prominently placed to let everyone know you have a security system in place. Burglars are looking for easy targets. Alarm systems are well worth the cost.


SPI Member Comments

Thoughts on “With burglaries on the increase, what are thieves after?

  • A few months ago I came back to my (rented) apartment from a weekend away to find I’d been burgled (I live in a Barcelona atico without security shutters.) Thieves IGNORED my top-of-the-line laptop, flatscreen TV, stupidly expensive hifi, video projector, desktop PC, couple of smartphones and numerous other examples of my gadget addiction. What they did take was the flat safe- they literally ripped it out of the wall. However all I had inside was my birth certificate, some long expired credit cards and a fake copy of a nice watch I have. Ironically I bought the fake because I was worried that the real one would get stolen if I took it travelling with me- but that time I did happen to take it. 😀

    The police said what you are saying above Mark- cash and jewellry are what they are looking for. Mistrust of banks and the black economy mean that it is still fairly normal for people to have large amounts of cash hidden away- sometimes literally under the mattress. They did though say that smartphones are now traceable and so only lower level thieves take those. So apparently I got broken into by posh thieves!

    Whatever- alarm system and cameras now installed.

    • My question for you and Mark is how were the thieves able to break in? I don’t (yet) have an alarm system and I’m in a sobreatico. But my newer (2014) cierramientos are supposedly very difficult to break into, and I have persianas on most of my windows and terrace doors. Still, I keep reading about breakins and I wonder if there is anything else I can do to secure my place.

      • Mark Stücklin says:

        Hi Gary. Those all sound like good measures, as the burglars are always looking for easy targets. But from what I can tell the best protection is a alarm system with radio backup. If you want a cheap, temporary option get hold of some securitas stickers. In our building they seem to go for flats without the stickers. That said they went for the doctor’s surgery below once, despite the stickers. But they knew what they were doing, they had obviously cased it out and visited as patients, so they had inside knowledge. They struck on a Friday evening, in and out in 5 minutes with €6,000 in cash. In a private home they don’t have the benefit of visiting before hand.

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