Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
At BcnIn we like to promote Barcelona because we genuinely believe that it’s a great city in which to live, enjoy your holidays and do business.
That doesn’t mean it’s perfect.
A few minutes spent browsing the websites of guidebook publishers and tourist advice websites will turn up a seemingly-infinite number of furious posters, all complaining bitterly about what they’ve experienced here. They aren’t talking about bad customer service in shops, the price of beer on las Ramblas or people walking around without t-shirts.
They’re complaining about being robbed.
Official figures put the number of reported incidents at over 115,000 a year: an average of more than 315 every day. By far the biggest ‘hot spot’ is the Ramblas-Plaça Catalunya-Passeig de Gracia axis but other tourist-dense zones like the Sagrada Familia and the beach are also happy hunting grounds for thieves.
Embassies and consulates are buried under the extra paperwork that this causes them: the Japanese consulate reports that a staggering 30% of Japanese tourists who visit Barcelona are robbed in the Metro system alone while the New Zealand embassy reports that 80% of robberies from their citizens in Spain occur in Barcelona.
Those are the official figures. Anecdotal evidence suggests the situation is much, much worse and Barcelona is unofficially but widely considered the worst city in Europe for muggings and robberies. More galling still is the fact that the frustrated and demotivated police are all but powerless to do anything about it. Unless a thief is apprehended – -difficult enough in the first place — with more than 300 Euros, all the police can do is warn them and let them go to re-offend. There are incidences of the same individual being arrested over one hundred times yet remaining completely unpunished. With so little disincentive to stop, Barcelona has become something of an international university of crime, with newspapers like La Vanguardia and El Periodico reporting the fact that Metro lines and Renfe stations have been unofficially divided up between gangs of different nationalities, all known to the police, who treat them as their own personal cash-dispensers.
The situation has become so bad that a Facebook page called RobbedInBarcelona, started by someone writing under the pseudonym of ‘Rob Daly’ (think about it…) has attracted a huge number of fans and spawned the website www.robbedinbarcelona.com. Here, articles and translations of Spanish and Catalan press articles on the subject are collated and victims of street crime can vent their spleens. There’s also a Twitter page where live incidents are sometimes reported.
The robbery situation in Barcelona is possibly the single greatest piece of negative PR for the city of Barcelona. Untold sums are spent on promoting the city abroad as a tourist destination; untold more have gone on introducing ‘civisme’ laws demanding that tourists recently relieved of their wallet and passport must remember to put their t-shirts on before leaving the beach to report it. The whole issue is one that politicians like to mention in opposition but ignore once in power.
RobbedinBarcelona recently contacted the mayoral candidates for their views on the subject. It is interesting to note the vague, vanilla responses and the almost total avoidance of the white elephant which is the inability of police to prosecute offenders. Until this is addressed — some suggest a New York-style ‘three strikes’ system — the rest is largely irrelevant.
Barcelona is not yet renowned for violent robberies — though they are certainly on the increase — but having a wallet, passport or mobile phone pick pocketed will leave a greater impression on a visitor than any amount of great food or glorious architecture. It’s a serious issue and one that we hope the next mayor, whoever he is, makes a priority.
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