I’m often asked about policing in Spain and the Canary Islands and how it compares with that in the UK. I usually avoid writing about policing issues, as much is subjective and depends upon personal experiences and encounters with the law. However, based on my work as a journalist, as well as many reports and comments that I have received from fellow expats, maybe now is the time to deal with the issue.

For me, the question came to the fore during my recent visit to the UK. My partner and I had found a wallet in Dorchester, the county town of Dorset, during a very brief stopover in the town. From a quick glance, I could see that the wallet contained over 100 pounds, bank cards and the usual clutter of a man’s wallet. Time was short and so we went to the local police station to hand it over as lost property. To my surprise, I found that the police station was only open three days each week and closed for lunch between 13.00 and 14.00. Sadly, we had arrived ten minutes late, and even though there were police cars in the car park and voices could be heard inside the building, no one would answer our knocks on the door and there was no letterbox to drop off the wallet. Although I am aware that the Dorset police headquarters is based in a remote part of the county, I was surprised that the county town could not offer a better service to its community. After all, community policing, in my view, is not just about catching criminals in fast cars, but also assisting the community when it is most needed.

To avoid further delays, I opened the wallet and examined it more fully. Maybe I could return the wallet to one of the banks that had issued the cards in the wallet? Fortunately, tucked inside, I found a driving licence. I could see from the licence that it and the wallet belonged to an elderly man, and it was clear that I had to get the wallet to him as soon as possible.

With the help of GPS on my mobile phone, we located the elderly man’s home, where we quickly realized that our efforts and delay in our travel plans were not in vain. This frail and worried gentleman was being helped by his young neighbor to call the police to report the lost wallet, and he beamed with relief and delight when we returned the wallet to him.

This experience made me realize how fortunate that we are to have the police service in the Canary Islands. It seems that we are never far away from a police officer, be it local, National or the Civil Guard. I personally have always found them to be courteous and professional in my dealings with them, both as a journalist, as well as a citizen. Frankly, I feel safer in the Canary Islands than I can ever remember the UK.

During my two weeks in the UK, with the exception of police officers at the airport, I only saw two police officers dealing with a single incident in the city of Bristol. The usual response to such criticism is, of course budget cuts and the recession, but I suggest that the safety of its community is the main responsibility of any government, and even though the weather was very cold during my visit, maybe a few more police officers on patrol would be of greater benefit than hiding in large warm offices in rural Dorset? Just a thought.

The availability of good security should be on everyone’s checklist whenever considering a local move or an overseas retirement destination.