A feeling of safety and peace is one of the essential factors that we all look for when moving to a foreign country to retire. In the case of Spain, this fantastic country has long enjoyed a reputation as being one of the safest places to live in Europe and beyond.
All of the latest reports point towards a reassuringly low crime rate in Spain. For example, this graphic from El País newspaper shows how the rate of crime has fallen in recent years and how low it is when compared to other European countries. We can see from these figures that violent theft and robberies from homes are among the biggest Spain crime concerns, although even these figures are still comparatively low.
The US Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs site states that Spain has a moderate rate of crime. However, it does note that tourists should be aware of pickpockets and other criminals in the main touristy areas.
As for homicide rates, Spain is currently ranked 19th out of 218 countries and territories around the world, with an impressively low rate of 0.8 murders per 100,000 inhabitants (to compare: the United States ranks 109th with a rate of 4.5, and Canada 46th with a rate of 1.6). This is great news for anyone worried about Spain safety.
The statistics show that an abnormally high percentage of the crime here is carried out by foreigners. For example, gangs of pickpockets from Eastern Europe have been blamed for crime waves in certain parts of the country.
As we have already seen, robberies are among the most common crimes you can expect to come across in Spain. As a foreigner you are probably going to have a higher than average risk of being targeted by pickpockets or other minor delinquents. This is especially true in areas with a high concentration of tourists, such as Barcelona and Madrid.
One point to bear in mind is that drug related criminal activity is higher here than you might expect, taking into account the relatively low overall Spain crime rates. This is probably due to the fact that the country is regarded as the main point of entry for drugs into the Europe Union. While this is something that is unlikely to affect you in your daily life when you retire to Spain, it is worth remembering that the number of drug users here is higher than in many other countries, especially when it comes to cocaine.
No matter where you go in the world these days, the risk to terrorism is something you will want to look into. In Spain, the Basque separatist group ETA has historically been one of the main threats to the safety of the people living in Spain. They have been responsible for hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries since starting their terrorist activities in the late 1960s.
These days, the violent struggle for Basque independence seems to be over, with a series of agreements and ceasefires ensuring that it has been a number of years since they caused any problems.
In terms of other types of terrorism, it is clear that all of Europe is currently on alert for this kind of activity. The UK government warns that there is a high threat from terrorism, specifically against British nationals, in Spain.
As the majority of crime against foreigners in Spain happens in busy, touristy areas it is wise to pay extra attention in these places. It is also recommended that you give a wide berth to the Romany gypsy women who offer flowers on the streets and have a reputation as being pickpockets and of insistently asking for money.
Overall, you should expect a trouble free time if you retire in Spain, as most visitors and foreign residents enjoy. Just take the usual precautions for going abroad and you will love this country. Don't look like a tourist, don't carry big sums of money in cash and don't take risks that you wouldn't take at home.
After spending time looking at crime statistics, it is a good moment to mention that the vast majority of Spaniards come across as extremely warm and friendly. Many of them will go out of their way to make newcomers feel at home in their country. They also tend to be fiercely patriotic and proud of Spain's reputation as one of the best and safest countries on Earth to live in.