Tourism hotspot Barcelona alarmed by crime surge

Two cops in plainclothes examine the identification paperwork of two presumed pickpockets (L) at a metro station in Barcelona on August 14, 2019. AFP / Lluis Gene
. Photos by Lluis Gene

Barcelona:  A surge in muggings and burglaries in Barcelona, primarily concentrating on vacationers, has sparked alarm in Spain’s second-largest metropolis, main native residents to kind their very own crime-fighting patrols.

The US consulate in Barcelona on Wednesday warned its nationals of “a rise in violent crime within the metropolis” and urged them to not “show indicators of wealth akin to sporting costly jewellery or watches”.

The alert got here simply days after Afghanistan’s ambassador to Spain was evenly injured in a bunch mugging to steal his watch within the metropolis centre, and a 91-year-old French girl was hospitalised after thieves yanked her necklace, inflicting her to fall.

Barcelona, a European vacationer hotspot, has recorded eight murders since July, an unusually excessive quantity for the Mediterranean seaside metropolis, and in June a visiting South Korean public servant died from accidents she suffered throughout a mugging.

Town’s resort affiliation has warned that Barcelona’s status might be “critically harmed”.

Albert Batlle, Barcelona’s deputy mayor in command of safety, acknowledged there was a “safety disaster” however known as for a “calm and accountable evaluation” of the issue.

Thefts and violent robberies in Barcelona, a metropolis of 1.6 million residents, jumped by 28 p.c between 2016 and 2018, in accordance with police figures.

The development has continued in 2019 with a 31 p.c rise in violent robberies throughout the first half of the yr.

However the whole variety of violent crimes — homicides and bodily accidents — fell throughout this era and the homicide price in Barcelona is decrease than in different European cities akin to London, Berlin and Brussels.

See also  From seashores to Bieber: 6 areas closing after tourism overload

‘Tourism attracts pickpockets’

“Barcelona continues to be a really protected metropolis,” stated Sonia Andolz, an professional on safety insurance policies, including the rise in crime “was not sufficient to justify the alarm that’s being generated”.

The increase in tourism the town skilled because it hosted the 1992 Summer season Olympics is partly in charge, Andolz stated.

“Tourism all the time attracts pickpockets,” she stated.

The variety of vacationers who stayed at a resort in Barcelona soared from 1.7 million in 1990 to eight.8 million in 2017, in accordance with municipal figures. Thousands and thousands extra arrive on cruise ships or keep in vacation flats.

Practically 60 p.c of all burglaries and robberies are concentrated within the two most visited neighbourhoods — the Ciutat Vella, the densely populated district on the metropolis’s coronary heart, and the Eixample, a tree-lined district that’s house to most of Barcelona’s well-known monuments such because the Sagrada Familia basilica.

Gustavo Equia, who owns an Argentinian empanada store in Ciutat Vella that was held up thrice in a single evening just lately, complains that the neighbourhood has been “left within the fingers of God.”

“There are increasingly more issues, many thefts, stabbings,” he added.

Many blame Barcelona’s left-wing mayor Ada Colau, accusing her of being too lenient since she got here to energy in 2015.

Citizen patrols

Metropolis corridor just lately boosted its crime-fighting price range and the regional authorities has deployed extra officers to the town, together with anti-riot models.

However in accordance with police just one in 10 individuals arrested for violent robberies in 2018 and 2019 went to jail.

See also  Value-of-living disaster to hit ladies hardest, report says

In response, some locals have organised “citizen patrols” to combat crime.

Carrying indicators in several languages they tour the town and metro stations, warning of pickpockets.

Once they spot a suspected thief they blow whistles and shout “depart pickpocket!” till the individual goes away.

“You see a lot insecurity, a lot nervousness, that you simply say: ‘Both we do one thing to avoid wasting Barcelona or it’ll flip right into a South American metropolis’,” stated Eliana Guerrero, a member of one of many patrols who’s initially from Colombia.

“This did not occur earlier than. There have been robberies, however not the violence we’ve at present,” added Guerrero, an actual property agent who unsuccessfully tried to change into a police officer.

Metropolis officers and specialists are involved.

“Taking justice into your personal fingers is just not the answer. A citizen with out coaching, and not using a uniform and with none controls can by no means play this position,” stated Andolz.