Three female thieves with cardboard shields; two thefts from a park; one pigeon poop pickpocket; one postcard technique theft; one very prolific, multi-talented pickpocket; continuous 3-shell, or pea games; and more. No partridge or pear tree.
Bob and I just took three days to re-evaluate the street crime scene in Barcelona. I don’t know why it’s such a contentious topic. Visit any travel forum and you’ll find defenders who say street crime isn’t bad there, that it’s no worse than in any big city, that it’s the stupid tourists’ fault.
Bob and I love Barcelona and believe me, it pains us to say it; but yes, Barcelona is right up there among the cities with the highest rates of theft from tourists. Still. Then and now.
We did not spend every minute of our three days there seeking out thieves. We began by visiting a park with our friend and his children. We did not see the thefts that occurred there just then, but the perpetrator was apprehended, the police were still on site, and Bob spoke with the three victims, two of whom were a young French tourist couple. Their valuables and documents were stolen as they lay dozing, or semi-dozing. The gentleman was alerted when the thief tried to get into his bag, which he was using as a pillow. Must have been a thrill-seeking thief to attempt stealing items from right under a man’s head.
We did not loiter in dark alleys or hang around after hours. We tramped the beaten path. The pigeon poop perp targeted us in the middle of lunch hour on a broad business and shopping street, across from a big hotel. Kharem, whom we’ve found almost every year since 2001, was hard at work with a brand new style on Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s main tourist artery. Same with all the other thieves we came across in these days. If you do stray from the well-worn paths, you’ll find more and different crime, for sure.
We were strolling to our friends’ apartment for dinner, technically off duty with cameras put away, when we saw a young man steal from a restaurant table. We were not looking for crime.
The receptionist in our hotel (which has 90 rooms), said she gets reports of theft from the hotel’s guests about once a week in the summer, but much less during the rest of the year because then guests are mostly Spanish business people who behave differently. The next evening, the receptionist told us that her cell phone had just been stolen from her handbag as she sat in a coffee shop with friends.
A receptionist at another hotel, which was located closer to Las Ramblas, said he gets one or two reports a day from his guests. I don’t know how many rooms that hotel has.
An Australian doctor told us he had just spent six days in Barcelona at a pathology conference. One of his colleagues had her passport stolen and when she went to the embassy, fourteen other conference attendees were there reporting thefts.
Over the next week or so, I’ll be posting details of the above incidents and characters, and more from this research trip. I may not remember to mention what a good time we had in Barcelona, the good meals we had, the beautiful architecture we feasted our eyes on, or the lively ambiance we enjoyed. These are only a few of the delights the city has for tourists to discover. In some way, I’m sorry that my writing focuses on crime. I don’t want to hurt the reputations of cities I love. Neither do I want to scare anyone away from visiting just because there is a relatively high rate of theft.