Surprisingly to many, Spain’s crime rate is the lowest in Europe, much lower than in the UK or Germany, supposedly highly civilized countries.
The most usual crime in Spain is theft, oddly enough committed mostly by foreigners. Petty thefts are the norm: handbag snatching, pick pocketing, laptop lifting and cell phone stealing. Violent crimes are few and very far between. Whereas rape and murder is the daily norm in many American and South American cities, Spain can boast of being a truly safe country. Muggings are unknown. I´ve lived here for many years and I´m speaking of the Madrid I live in today.
Safety is part of well-being. One should be free to walk the streets of one’s hometown without the fear of being mugged, robbed, raped or harassed in any way. The US boasts that it is the land of the free, the land of the free where people in most large cities feel unsafe and cowered by crime.
Madrid is a small city, population-wise. It has only 3,000,000 inhabitants within city limits which is a drop in the bucket if we compare it to London or Berlin. Tokyo boasts over 32,000,000 and New York 8,000,000.
Madrid is, like many other European cities, a beautiful town, a beautiful village. Its official status is that of villa de Madrid, village of Madrid. If you are a brisk walker you can certainly hoof it. It has fantastic buildings, wide avenues, narrow streets, museums, plenty of parks, and history and culture galore. After all, it was the center of a vast Empire for centuries.
The best ingredient or attractiveness of the city is safety. In Madrid you can be and feel safe. Taking the necessary and common-sense precautions, Madrid can be enjoyed without worry. You can step out of your abode fearless of being mugged, harassed, beaten, assaulted or even killed. That is a huge asset Madrid can brag about.
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The safety Madrid enjoys is not only the efficient work of the local police force, Policía Municipal, or the Policía Nacional, but also the fact that Spaniards as a whole are law-abiding citizens, except when it comes to jaywalking, speeding and noise-making.
I would say that Madrid is a city where women can feel at ease, safe and free. A woman can walk in the streets, take public transportation, go shopping, eat out, and more, without a male escort, at any time of day. The streets at 10 pm are as safe as at 12 noon. The famous piropo, catcall, has just about died out, even among the older set.
Think of it: being able to get on a bus which is clean, surrounded by pretty much sane people, getting off near the Puerta del Sol, walk about by yourself, do some shopping, carry your bags, sit at a terrace café, take another bus back, or even the subway… in safety, without dread, without a feeling of fear. To me that is the most valuable asset Madrid, Spain in general, has to offer newcomers and natives alike.
When my daughter Laura, from San Francisco, comes to visit she is like a whirlwind of action and activity, moving about from place to place, at odd hours, meeting friends, dining out… she tells me she cannot do that or be so carefree back home. And there is no need to own a car in Madrid because public transportation is clean, efficient, fast and… cheap.
If you like to live in fear, to be indoors most of the time, to savor the possibility of a mugging around the corner, to depend on a car… do not come to Madrid. Stay where you are. A final caveat: common sense must be the rule even in Madrid, and do not trouble trouble, even if it troubles you, and let sleeping dogs lie and keep your eyes peeled wherever you are.
Now, terrorist attacks, like the ones in New York, Madrid and Paris may occur in any city in the world, any time. That is a threat we may unfortunately have to learn to live with, no matter where we live or travel to.