Background to Operation Captura
Catching criminals on the Costa del Sol
Increasingly, crime in other countries has an impact on the UK. Although Crimestoppers has no formal mandate to act outside of this country, the charity does work on projects that can help to reduce crime in the UK.
For many years, Spain has been an appealing sunny hideaway for British criminals escaping justice. But this all changed in 2004 when European Arrest Warrants came into effect, making it easier to bring British criminals back into the UK's criminal justice system.
Despite the vast majority of law-abiding citizens in the ex-pat community, Southern Spain's massive tourist trade and convenient location make it an ideal spot for drug running. Recently, after reports of mafia-like battles and murders, it was estimated that there were almost 40 British crime syndicates operating in the Costas. Most of these are involved in the drugs trade.
Nowhere to hide
With our website's Most Wanted section already producing excellent results, Crimestoppers saw the potential to extend its power and capitalise on the Internet's international reach. We saw another opportunity to tackle modern crime with a modern solution, and to this end our team set about organising Operation Captura, an online campaign working through Most Wanted.
Dave Cording, Crimestoppers' Deputy Chief Executive, neatly summed up its objectives: “We started this project to tackle the growing level of criminality from British criminals, living and hiding primarily on the Costa del Sol. We particularly want to promote this campaign to the law-abiding British ex-pat community in Spain, who may unknowingly be living next door to a wanted criminal.”
A perfect partnership
In October 2006, a three-month pilot of the Operation Captura initiative, led by Crimestoppers and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), was launched with ten appeals for information on criminals involved in serious organised criminality, appearing on Most Wanted. The appeals ranged from individuals wanted for murder or for major drug trafficking offences.
Through the huge amounts of publicity generated by both the British and Spanish media, there were some early successes with several of the criminals being tracked down and arrested mainly as a result of information passed to Crimestoppers.
As well as the two lead partners, Operation Captura could not have come about without the valuable assistance of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, British law enforcement, the British Embassy and Spanish Government in Madrid. The telecommunications company, Telefonica, also played a significant role in pulling the project together by supplying us with a Spanish free telephone number – 900 555 111 – just a few digits different from our core hotline number. All calls to this number are answered in the UK by the Crimestoppers' 24:7 Call Bureau.
Since October 2006, there have been five further sets of ten appeals. The most recent batch was launched on 21 February 2011. Within hours of the press conference for the fourth batch, two fugitives wanted for serious fraud crimes were arrested just outside Alicante. Ten days later, a convicted child rapist surrendered himself to authorities in Madrid, citing the pressure of the publicity as the reason for giving himself up. In the month since the launch of the sixth batch in Alicante on 21 February 2011, three of the Most Wanted were arrested. From a total of 60 appeals, 44 arrests have been made so far which is a remarkable success story.
Bill Hughes, Director General of SOCA, sums up the success and signals the partnership as being a blueprint for similar campaigns in other countries: “This is an innovative partnership which is proving to be very successful and is delivering a simple message to criminals; you won't escape to the sun, we will find you and bring you back. This is just the beginning of an expansion of the project with more areas and countries being assessed where we can actively target these fugitives and return them to face justice, watch this space for future initiatives.”
Operation Captura appeal launches - press releases
- Criminals hiding on the Costas beware as Operation Captura returns - February 2011
- Closing in on Britain's 'Costa crooks' - September 2009
- Don't let criminals live a life in the sun - July 2009
- Sun, sea and serious organised crime - November 2008
- Nowhere to hide - Crimestoppers and SOCA hunt more criminals in Spain - January 2008
If you wish to pass on information about crime anonymously, please call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or 900 555 111 from Spain. Alternatively, fill out our anonymous online Giving Information Form.
Crimestoppers is an independent charity and not part of the police.
Back to Catching criminals in Spain
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