Often associated with less-than-desirable tourist destinations, carjacking is a worldwide threat that has recently set its hooks into the coastal vistas and mountainous overlooks speckled throughout Spain. The Spanish Foreign Office warns that a recent upswing in gang-related carjackings have been reported along many of the popular tourist routes connecting major destinations putting those enjoying a trip to Barcelona and Alicante at increased risk. The attacks seem to be targeting rental cars, or foreign-registered vehicles, most commonly driven by travelers in the areas. Carjacking is by no means a recent phenomenon, so before sounding the tourism alarms, and peppering you with vague and hyperbolic warnings, its important to know the few, yet effective, measures that you can take to easily avoid being caught in a carjacking scenario.
Rarely (if at all) are these carjackings violent, in fact most are perpetrated under the guise of pseudo-helpfulness. Many carjackers will attempt to deceive you into pulling over by signaling that something is wrong with your vehicle, and that they can help. Often one individual will call you out to the passenger side of the vehicle to point out part of your car that isn't safe while his associate slips through the driver's door and makes off with your belongings. The Foreign Office advises travelers to be wary of anyone offering to help them under suspicious circumstances, and to stop along highways only if absolutely necessary, preferably in well-lit public areas.
Another common con pulled by would-be carjackers is to pose as plainclothes police officers in unmarked cars, to pull over unsuspecting tourists and demand their belongings. In Spain, all traffic related stops will be performed by police officers in uniform with official ID. Legitimate police will only ask for your documents, never for money or possessions.
For the unfortunate few that do end up in a carjacking, it's imperative to understand the most effective methods of minimizing personal harm. The following points come courtesy of the U.S. State Department.
- Give up the vehicle freely.
- Listen carefully to all directions.
- Make no quick or sudden movements that the attacker could construe as a counter attack.
- Always keep your hands in plain view. Tell the attacker of every move in advance.
- Make the attacker aware if children are present. The attacker may be focused only on the driver and they may not know that children are in the car.
Avoidance is far and away the best preventative method to avoid a carjacking, and compliance (giving up your vehicle) is the safest route to take when being carjacked.
Despite the profound rarity of carjacking situations in most tourist destinations around the world, it's always good to have a plan in place to deal with the worst. With the limited guidelines and new found understandings of how to avoid/manage a carjacking, know that the next time you pick up a car rental in Spain, or elsewhere around the world, you have the knowledge and prowess to handle a carjacking safely and properly.