Barcelona police are turning away theft victims who come to report the theft of their phones. Why? The victims can’t provide the stolen phones’ serial numbers (duh). In three minutes, we saw three separate victims of theft prohibited from filing official police reports.
I wish we’d surveyed the rest of the victims waiting in line. Doubtless some lost wallets full of cash, but smart phones are the hot item for thieves this year, and Barcelona Police aren’t going to let them inflate their theft statistics.
The more I dwell on this, the madder I get. These are a subset of victims, already upset, who bother to make the trek to the remote police station to file official reports. They need these reports for their insurance claims. But they don’t have access to records of their electronic devices’ serial numbers while on holiday and Barcelona Police know it.
Now, with a brand new Apple store having just opened last week, stolen-iPhone victims might be in a bit of luck if Apple will provide the information the police require. If those victims have time to go across town to the Apple store, wait for employees to access their account histories, then return to the police station. Nice vacation!
When police make it impossible to file an official theft report, they tamper with statistics. The motivation is clear: what city doesn’t want lower crime stats? What city doesn’t want to show the effectiveness of its police department?
And what city desperately needs to show lower pickpocketing statistics than Barcelona? I get it.
Three stolen-iPhone victims in three minutes. Let’s extrapolate on the conservative side and say three in ten minutes. That’s 18 an hour, or what, 200 a day? More? Fewer? Impossible to say but “a lot” would be accurate. Police translators are only on duty ten hours a day, if I remember correctly, so reports from foreigners would be concentrated during those hours. I believe 200 smart-phone theft victims showing up each day at the Mossos d’Esquadra (Barcelona’s Catalan police station) is conservative. That’s 200 reports of theft not filed. Per day.
I didn’t consider this possibility when I wrote 6,000 Thefts Per Day on Barcelona Visitors. Granted, smart phones weren’t the hot target they are today. But I knew that Barcelona Police had other methods to thwart the filing of theft reports: limited hours of available translators; bouncing victims from one police station to another, demanding they come back in a few hours… Still, numbers in the hundreds of thousands are admitted by Barcelona Police as reports successfully filed by pickpocket and bag snatch victims.
We know we can’t trust those numbers. The police admit to 9,000 violent muggings in the first ten months of 2011. That’s 30 per day. And 2,000 bag-snatches in the same period—6 per day. But how many pickpocketings? How many other thefts? And how many people bother or try to file police reports? And of those, how many succeed?
I know—I’ve got far more questions than answers. I will revisit the police station in a few weeks and report back.