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UPR officers pose with some of the equipment they use in their operations. Pepe Marín
A day in the life of a specialist National Police unit in Granada: from smashing down doors in drug raids to locating missing people
Police

A day in the life of a specialist National Police unit in Granada: from smashing down doors in drug raids to locating missing people

The UPR, one of the force's elite units, specialises in dismantling crime networks and focuses its attention on known blackspots. There are currently some officers working on the Costa del Sol as part of the summer anti-crime campaign

Laura Velasco

Granada

Monday, 3 June 2024, 16:56

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The Prevention and Reaction Unit (UPR) is an elite group of highly trained National Police officers in Granada province who receive their orders from the courts. When they get a call, they never quite know what they are going to find, yet each officer knows their role and they work as a team.

Still unknown to many, the UPR has been operating in the city for two decades. One of the most common operations the officers undertake is drug raids. Searches against marijuana cultivation have intensified in the city and the province. They are trained to break into buildings efficiently and discreetly. However, they are just as skilled at locating disoriented elderly people or controlling demonstrations.

The group was created to reinforce the Citizen Security brigades in large cities or those where there are higher crime rates. Granada province currently has two operational groups with around twenty police officers who not only serve in the city, but also support other provinces.

"We don't have a fixed number of officers because today we are here and tomorrow we are there. We move around a lot when we need to", explained Félix, head of the group. For example, there are currently officers in Marbella as part of the summer operation. They also attend fairs in neighbouring provincial towns when they are required, such as Úbeda or Andújar.

Their main task, Félix said, is crime prevention. To do this, they detect the black spots in their area of operation, where, for example, there is more drug trafficking or where generally higher crime rates. "We support the public safety units on the ground. We are always the first on the scene when something happens," said the chief.

Searches for marijuana

Most searches are for marijuana and they are called to at least one a week. Before the search, the group meets and plans the action. "Whoever is in charge of the group at the time contacts the court and asks to know where the place is, what time it is going to be and what is expected to be inside - if there will be people there or not. Once we know all that, we get the group together and explain what we want," said Félix.

On arrival at the site, they secure the area and a team enters using special equipment. They only carry out the search, the rest depends on the judicial authority. "Information is handled very carefully and is passed on to the group at short notice," Félix stressed.

"More than working with fear, I would say we work with caution. We sometimes work with people who are dangerous and we have to be careful," he added. They are used to working under pressure.

"More than working in fear, I would say we work with caution. We sometimes work with people who are dangerous"

The officers often wear balaclavas to hide their identity, although so far they have not had any problems arising from any operation. "You have to keep an eye on the area if it is a conflict zone. Normally nothing happens, but it can. Any silly thing can spark a problem," he added.

"We have often gone to very high-profile trials or trials that could be problematic because of the type of crime. We also attend events, such as football, basketball or concerts," said the chief. At the next level are the Police Intervention Units (UIP). "The tasks have changed over the years, because before we were only involved in crime prevention and now more and more events, demonstrations and protests are taking place."

Finding a missing person

The operation that stands out most for Félix is when he and his team located an elderly person in Llano de la Perdiz in January 2023. All his colleagues stayed behind to work voluntarily. "They made it clear to me that they would not leave until they found him," he recalled.

The call came in at eight o'clock in the evening. An elderly man had gone for a walk in the countryside, got lost and didn't know where he was. It was a cold evening and by that time, it was dark. "We were on the ground until five in the morning, when he turned up. We found him next to the 'zetas'. It was a very nice intervention," he recalled.

In this sense, he insisted that humanitarian interventions take place "practically on a daily basis". They do not spend all their days knocking down doors, as it might seem. "We are on the street and we do what comes up. Everyday life is a person who falls or a child who gets lost. We are always there, not just us, but the police in general", concluded Félix.

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