Petty theft, white-collar crime and political corruption take siege as the main sources of crime in Madrid. Misconduct due to drunkenness is frowned upon and unlikely, according to political correspondents.
A full-time student at Saint Louis University Madrid told us that the city is safer at 4 a.m. than New York at noon. That surprised me considering she’s a 20-year-old American citizen with an elementary level of Spanish vocabulary, who walks home alone from clubs in the early hours of the morning.
She did have a word of advice during orientation.
“Nightlife is an exciting part of Madrid’s culture. You should try to go out dancing at ‘discotecas’ [clubs] or drinking at bars with friends as much as you can. Though you should know some important tips before going.”
- The metros stop running at 1:30 a.m., so bring cab fare. It shouldn’t be more than €10.
- Manage the battery life on your cell wisely in case you need to call for help.
- Be wary of the bars in the Sol area. Some, like the infamous establishments — that will remain unnamed — will try to drug you. Most clubs should be fine though.
As she left us, I wasn’t sure how I felt about a young woman strolling around la Puerta del Sol or Gran Via — the Times Square of Madrid’s center — alone, attempting to find her way home in the middle of the night. But who am I to judge? Orientation was three days after our arrival and I hadn’t gone out yet, myself.
Nightlife is a major part of the culture in Madrid. The SLU Madrid student government attempts to get everyone involved. Oftentimes, students will distribute promotions throughout the day for events at bars and clubs around the city. Their mission is to facilitate an environment where a multicultural student body can meet while experiencing the flare of the city.
This festive and chaotic culture was appealing to me as I began researching Madrid. Online, I found locations such as Kapital, the seven-story dance club and El Chapandaz, a bar constructed as if it were a cavern where drinks pour down from stalactites on the ceiling. The nightlife scene seemed much more extravagant than a few house parties at the Townhouses or a police-monitored day drink at Lantern Point.
I remembered what my parents had reiterated time and time again before I left: “Exercise extreme caution,” which is obvious and responsible behavior that any foreigner would deem a priority when traveling abroad to Europe. “Extreme caution” is also advised by major media outlets like Fox News, CNN, the NY Times and by the U.S. State Department when regarding the possible threat of terrorism overseas.
I have lived here in Madrid for about a month and crime seems to be almost nonexistent. Terrorism has yet to threaten one who is walking the streets at night or taking the packed metro to the Center of the city.
I wonder now what all of the commotion in American media is truly all about. Yes, there are horror stories of severe crimes in the news and yes, there are even alerts sent around now and again of potential terrorist activity around Europe. Where exactly did the stereotypical lawlessness of the “unpoliced European streets” and the daily threats of terrorism my friends back home had warned me about all go though?
I felt it necessary to conduct further research on crime in Madrid to discover the truth.
During my inquiry, I sat down with Dr. Chris Ealham, a political science professor at SLU Madrid. Ealham, a native of the United Kingdom, is a resident of Spain for almost nine years. He explained that the general overview on crime is divided amongst ideological groups and political factions of citizens.
“Like many places, it’s mainly how you conceive crime. The feminist thinkers tend to focus on gender violence, particularly domestic abuse and the murder of spouses or ex-spouses. Conservatives will focus on property damage and in recent years, a growing focus [is placed] on white-collar crime and political corruption. Often, many experience petty theft such as pick-pocketing in tourist areas.”
Spain has seen a drastic change in its number of homicides over a 10-year period.
According to Eurostat, a Directorate-General of the European Commission that provides statistical information to the institutions of the European Union, police records report a quantitative statistic of homicides showing a rapid decline. The evidence discloses a 587 count in 2003 to 76 in 2012.
As Ealham explained, “Madrid, being the sixth largest European city by population, has one of the lowest murder rates. The public has generally shifted their attention to corruption that is directly affecting the economy and unemployment rates. White-collar crime and political corruption such as money laundering has resulted in meteoric rise of anti-corruption political parties like the left-wing Podemos, which has over 70 parliamentary deputies, as opposed to right-wing Ciudadanos, which has over 30.”
Ealham made it clear that Ciudadanos are still under investigation for alleged bribery and various forms of political corruption involving over 90 leading politicians.
The majority of citizens equate these forms of corruption to the growing unemployment rates within the country and its effect on the economy.
Madrid saw its last terrorist attack in 2004. The Atocha railway attacks were the most devastating, killing almost 200 people and injuring thousands. Around 20 were British and American citizens.
Nonetheless, in more recent times, students and professors, as well as foreigners and natives, seem to feel comfortable in Madrid and focus on life without much crime.