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Main-line policing in Spain is organised and managed on a national basis by the Ministry of the Interior, with some lower-level law-and-order responsibilities in the big cities and towns being left to the Mayor and City/Town Councils to organise and manage for themselves. These lower-level arrangements (and even the names of the police) can therefore vary. Cities and Towns generally have three policing authorities. They are all armed and have dogs.
The Guardia Civil (Civil Guard)
The Guardia is a Spain-wide national force organised along para-military lines and controlled by the Ministry of the Interior. The Guardia wear green uniforms and are considered by many to be the most respected and trusted police force in the country. They have wide-ranging responsibilities for national law-enforcement and security which include being "the national authority" providing customs, ports and airports services, drug-trafficking and contraband investigation, bomb squad and explosives cover, counter-terrorism action, the coast guard role, crowd control, security and policing in rural areas and in towns and villages with populations of less than 10,000 inhabitants, and running the prisons. They are also responsible for highway law-enforcement so visitors will probably most often see them on the motorways and out-of-town roads in either cars or (in pairs) on motorbikes doing speed and documentation checks, pulling-up road-users for traffic-law violations, and supervising accident scenes.
The National Police (La Policia Nacional)
The Policia Nacional (full title El Cuerpo Nacional de Policía, "The National Police Corps") is the countrywide urban police agency of Spain. They are under the sole authority of Spain's Ministry of the Interior. The uniformed branch wear a blue military style uniform; there is also a considerable plain-clothes force. They are the main police authority responsible for handling criminal, judicial, terrorism and immigration matters, but their duties also include guarding public buildings, the Royal Family and Government figures. If you are a victim of street crime or burglary these are the police that will deal with your case. It is the Policia Nacional who are responsible for issuing "the official papers" for anyone wanting to "become a resident in Spain" -- notably a person's unique and essential national-registry identification number (NIE) and a residencia certificate. If you need to find the Policia Nacional, ask for La Comisaría de Policía.
La Policia Local (Local Police)
Sometimes known as the Policía Municipal, this force is recruited, resourced and controlled by their own city or town council. They wear blue-and-white uniforms and really deal only with minor matters such as parking, local traffic control and bye-law issues. Towns in Spain have no real equivalent of the ‘bobby on the beat’ street-patrol police. Some tourist cities/towns have a city/town-funded subordinate force of uniformed city or town 'security patrolmen' (sometimes the Protecion Civil, sometimes Seguridad Ciudano, quite-likely something else), a bit like Special Constables in Britain. They have no police powers and do not have firearms, but they can be "helpful to visitors" and can support higher-level Policia officers in dealing with traffic management, crowd control and people who are, for example, drunk and disorderly.
IF YOU ARE THE VICTIM OF A CRIME OR SEE A CRIME BEING COMMITTED OR IF YOU SEE A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT OR ARE INVOLVED IN A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT
If you are the victim of a crime or see a crime being committed, OR if you see a traffic accident or are involved in a traffic accident, the national emergency telephone number for police (or fire or ambulance) assistance is 112. You will be put through to someone who speaks your language. You are likely to be told that you will need to make a statement about the event (a denuncia) at a police station within 48 hours and you will be told which Policia National police station to go to. It will be somewhere as near as possible to where you are staying.
- more from other sources now follows -
Useful Phone Numbers
National Police - 952 80 36 00
Guardia Civil - 952 89 00 55
General police, ambulance, fire - 112
To report a crime eg robbery, assault – 902 102 112
Guardia Civil – 062
Local Police - 091
National Police - 092
Your local police station can provide you with information on a range of queries even details of the nearest chemist on duty.
If you are arrested you will be entitled to make one phone call. You may be allotted the free services of a duty solicitor (abogado de oficio), who may speak only Spanish. If your case is taken to court, the authorities will provide a translator.
Only telephone the police if you need their assistance to stop a crime in progress. The police here speak very little English so unless you can talk to them in Spanish, simply let them know where you are and they will come straight to you to sort out any problem.
To report a crime to the police "after the fact", or to obtain a police report for any reason, you will need to go to the local police station. If you lose or have stolen any bags, expensive items, or especially your passport you MUST first report this to the police. They will issue you with a 'denuncia' to show you have reported its loss. In the case of a lost/stolen passport, the 'denuncia' should be presented at your national consulate, where emergency documents for travel home will normally be issued. For other losses, the 'denuncia' should be sent to your travel insurance company when making a claim.
If you are visiting and find you have been grossly overcharged or deliberately cheated, all businesses must have on the premises a book called the 'Hoja de Reclamaciones’, which you can ask for to record your complaint. You need to write in details of your complaint, fill in your personal details; Passport Number, Holiday and Home Address and then sign it. You take the top copy and send it to the inspectors address on the top of the form. The inspectors will investigate your complaint and inform you of the outcome.
This is a very serious situation for a shop owner, so do not take this course of action lightly. If the shop or business say they do not have a Hoja de Reclamaciones, you can go to the Consumer Protection Office, the Tourist Office at the town hall or the police. Make the shop owner aware of the course of action you'll be taking, and most often, a way forward will be found very quickly.
Whenever you have a problem that relates to tourism matters you should contact the police or Spanish Tourist Office.
For multi-lingual police services, call 902 102 112, free of charge. This number can be used if you wish to make an official complaint to the police about anything you consider a crime or if you've lost something of value and need a report for insurance purposes.
DO NOT (under any circumstances) lose your temper with the police, argue with them or shout at them. The Spanish police are not shy of using force and physical violence against those they consider are a threat to themselves and the public.