Of all the reasons cited by immigrants for their decision to move from Northern Europe to Spain (better weather, more relaxed lifestyle, improved healthcare), few have seriously considered the difference in crime rates. Yet now, with the UK’s serious crime statistics showing a marked annual increase, this aspect is starting to be discussed.
Anna Nicholas, a contributor to the Expat section of The Daily Telegraph’s website, has been the most recent journalist to highlight the situation: “According to recently published crime statistics issued by the European Commission, one is three times more likely to be burgled in the UK or twice in France than in Spain.” These same figures also indicate that violent crime reached a record one million cases while, during the same period surveyed by the European Commission, France registered 341,942 incidents, Germany 208,446 and Spain 112,926. In 2009 the situation in the UK had worsened to the extent that some tabloids were positing that it was on a par with South Africa, one of the world’s most crime-ridden nations and things have deteriorated further in the past couple of years. While Spain tends to have a rather higher rate of domestic violence than Britain – which probably accounts for its higher rate of manslaughter – the type of gang violence and anti-social behaviour that now sadly seems to be part of life in many of the UK’s big cities is far less prevalent in Spain. Figures on the NationMaster.com website reveal that Britain has suffered 45 per cent more murders by youths, while drug offences are also far worse in the UK with 183.419 people per 100,000 being convicted compared to just 27.9 per 100,000 in Spain. Anna Nicholas’s article stated that the advice given to Londoners by the police was to ensure that they keep their home cash-free at all times to foil burglars during break-ins. Nicholas also quoted one professional acquaintance who was so terrified of being confronted with an armed burglar at night that she keeps a carrier bag full of valuables by her bed to use as a bargaining tool. Given these circumstances, the fact that some new arrivals to Spain are now giving the British crime rate as a reason for emigration is not a great surprise. Michael Liggan of Altavista Property Spain says, “While Spain, like most other countries, does have its fair share of petty crime, it is certainly true that we don’t experience the same high level of violent crime that seems to be the norm in Britain these days. In some of the larger cities many places are virtually no-go areas, especially after dark yet, in Spain, it’s part of the local culture to go out after dark to meet friends and have a drink or a meal. Moving to Spain can offer a massive improvement in lifestyle and peace of mind.”