Barcelona street crime

Eat, drink, and be merry on La Rambla. Great for people-watching. Great for pickpockets. (This is a frame-grab from video, hence the poor quality.)
Eat, drink, and be merry on La Rambla. Great for people-watching. Great for pickpockets. (This is a frame-grab from video, hence the poor quality.)

Yannick Laclau wrote about Barcelona, a city that Bob and I love. But Yannick’s news was a sad consequence of the ostrich hiding its head in the sand. He wrote that Barcelona is close to losing its status as host to the Mobile World Congress, partly because of street crime. If the conference does go elsewhere, it will be concrete evidence of the seriousness of Barcelona’s problem, which everyone knows about but few do anything about. (As if endless reports of robberies and muggings are not evidence.) If one conference pulls out, more are sure to follow. That ought to yank the ostrich’s head up. But as he just gazes bleary-eyed (“Hey, where’d everyone go?”) at lower tourism numbers, Barcelona’s convention bureau will have a helluva time convincing group organizers that the city is safe.

What a shame that attendees might miss fabulous Barcelona. Bob and I visit often. It’s one of our favorite cities for dining, atmosphere, and thiefhunting. But I must admit, while we hunt thieves in cities around the world, Barcelona is one of our best laboratories. Kharem, the thief I wrote about here operates in Barcelona. There’s tons about Barcelona featured in our book, Travel Advisory.

A pickpocket's cost of doing business.
A pickpocket's cost of doing business.

Some cities and tourism bureaus take a pro-active stance in fighting tourist-related crime in an aggressive manner, by warning people, taking good care of victims, and prosecuting perps. Others sweep it under the carpet and suppress press articles. Negative publicity has a devastating effect on tourism: look at Kenya, Aruba, and South Africa, three dream destinations whose reputations have been pretty ruined by crime.

Honolulu and Orlando, as opposite examples of tourism destinations with their share of crime, fight hard to combat it. If you’re a victim of crime in these cities, you’re so well-taken care of that you leave with good feelings anyway. And, you’re likely to return for another vacation there, all expenses paid, in order to testify against the thief.

Eight or so years ago, we worked on a (major cruise line’s) ship, on which we entertained with a comedy pickpocket show, and also lectured passengers on how to avoid street theft. We gave examples and showed our own video of crime in action. The ship’s hotel director, who lived in Barcelona, was deeply offended that we showed actual examples from his city, which he insisted was one of the safest in the world! Later, we were told outright that the cruise line would prefer to keep their passengers ignorant of the dangers of the ship’s ports of call, rather than expose the “frightening” and “ominous” reality of travel.

Kharem, a pickpocket in Barcelona, showed us a stack of fines he was required to pay to the court. They ranged from 80 to 150 euros each.
Kharem, a pickpocket in Barcelona, showed us a stack of fines he was required to pay to the court. They ranged from 80 to 150 euros each.

Numerous factors help explain Barcelona’s rampant thievery. Tax and immigration issues, packed prisons, overextended judicial systems, law enforcement budget constraints, high unemployment, all contribute to the persistence of street crime. But when the courts give a pickpocket a monetary fine to pay, how do they expect him to obtain the funds?

So is Barcelona right to just let itself be what it will be? Do officials realize (or care) that most visitors are not as city-savvy as its locals are, and are thereby more apt to become victims? Individuals like Canadian Mary Chipman, who broke her hip when a bag snatcher pulled her to the ground, don’t matter. Neither do the hundred or so individuals documented on Street Scams of Barcelona, or any like them. But when conventions start pulling out, perhaps local businesses will hurt enough to instigate some changes. We shall see.

Never mind. I will continue to visit Barcelona and recommend it as an exciting place to visit. And, there’s one failsafe way to avoid pickpockets.

Feb. 21, 2009 update: what happened one year later?

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  • I too got ripped off this week with Fake Police Id trick. I should have checked this site before going there. And I was thinking of contacting the police but it would have been a waste of time as it looks like they know everything.

  • I just did a road trip from paris to the picos de eropa andorra narboon and down to barcelona great trip but in the two days we stayed in barcelonathe fist day was great good food stayed at a secure hotel Jazz.the next morning we went out to do some photography and being from ny I have eyes in the back of my head my wife and I entered a park to shoot some photos of the park and it’s statues.i was filming and my wife was taking still shots.we were the only persons in the park but another eldery couple sitting on a bench than I saw 4 shady man enter the park an formed a loose pirmeter around th old couple I put my camera away now I’m watching the four theifs my wife and the old couple thats when one of the four men came up behind the old couple and squirted him with somthing creating the distraction the look out was 50 feet away and I was about 100 ft away ,dont know what came over me but I ran over and assiste in getting the couple there bags back from that point on we were now the targets in the next 24 hrs I was able to avoid being robbed atleast twice and found that some of the barcelonas finest my be part of the problem.beautifule city but the enjoment factor was not dinner that night we sat at a tapas waiting for our resturant to open at 8 pm the bar tender was quit nice untill the two police that have ben following us a good part of the day walked in and talked to the bartender.after that he stoped serving us mad thretning gestures with a large knife nasty looks breaking things behind the bar
    thats when I told my wife lets eat at the hotel tonight an were out of here at first light.

  • Jim, you’re right that Barcelona’s thievery is out of hand and something must be done about it. On the other hand, it’s too wonderful a destination to forego. A new group, Robbed in Barcelona, is attempting to publicize the magnitude of the situation, and shame the city into action. I believe they’ll make a difference.

  • I’ve just returned from Barcelona were I was robbed. I spoke to 8 other people who were robbed that weekend alone. One suggestion to everyone, tell everybody you know not to visit the city until it gets sorted out! If tourist figures plummett the authorites will need to do something!

  • I have lived in Barcelona for 7 years and have been robbed at least 11 times, not to mention the countless foiled or averted attempts. Last year I was burglarized to the tune of €20,000, mostly in irreplaceable heirlooms.

    I wonder if you might be interested in liaising with our new blog,, which is an outgrowth of the facebook group “I know someone who got robbed in Barcelona.” We are hoping to get something done about this atrocious problem that is now more rampant and epidemic than ever.


  • We were conned by the puncture trick….to painful to relate at the moment – does anyone know if insurance will cover us?

  • Hi all!

    I’ve been living in Barcelona for one and a half years and I am pretty disappointed with it. I did not have “many” problems – mainly flat tires three times (luckily nothing stolen from the car those three times as every time it happened I was close to home so I would drive the car till the parking which had security cameras and guards), girlfriend purse stolen from the car at the stop light and the nastiest one, one morning going to the parking (this time, a different parking, with no security, but still, closed private parking with lots of cars) to find that the driver window has been broken. They stole the GPS which was in the glove compartment and two pairs of sun-glasses.

    I know of numerous other incidents and I’m still hearing more every day. In our building for instance – which is not in the very center by far – there have been in the past six months two robberies; again, this is a building which has videophone at the entrance and the downstairs door is always closed – however, they still manage to get in every once in a while.

    I am very frustrated that I do not understand, besides the authorities ignorance, the ignorance of the locals, which fall victims as well in many cases. Most of Barcelona lives off from tourism, and they do not do anything to protect it.

    Meanwhile, I will not recommend anybody to visit or come live in Barcelona. Until things get straighten up at least. And I think everybody should do the same. I think we need to raise awareness and I hope some non-profit organisations will appear that will go around the city and in the airports and post posters with security warnings and informational materials about the high level of crime.

  • Hi everyone,

    I stumbled upon this blog googling on the subject. My parents, both very well-travelled and savvy and still relatively young, just came back from Barcelona.

    They were scammed by 2 individuals IMPERSONATING POLICE OFFICERS. These two scammers accosted my parents, demanding to see their passports and wallets to check if they were “buying drugs” or some bullsh*t.

    My parents, not speaking Spanish, had absolutely no way of challenging them, and they couldn’t even read the “ID” that was proffered to them. And being from East Asia, there is a certain attitude of trust in police officers.

    A few hours after that, my dad realized that USD 500 was missing from his wallet. I visited Barca myself in 2003 with 3 other friends but encountered no incident.

    I don’t think I’ll ever go back now. How on Earth does one challenge an apparent police officer in a country where one speaks not the language????

  • @ Teri – If you moved to another neighborhood half your worries / stress would be over. You live right in the belly of the beast which is half of the problem right there. At least the majority of crime here is “petty” and not far worse, aggressive crime. That said I do not cut the local authorities any slack at all. I know the US Consulate has broached this subject with the Catalan authorities though no direct action has come of it that I know of. I’m just a month into moving here myself; I believe a proactive mindset can and will bring real change to this serious problem. I will say that things have gotten better since my first week, but that’s not to say the crime has gone away. Have a pint of bitter for us back home in London. All best with your move. Cheers.

  • Good to know at least somebody is talking about this problem. I´m from London and have lived here 7 years, everyone goes on about crime in London but it is much worse here and done with impunity by the low life scum that do it. The last comment which is clearly written by a smug local who´s never been robbed before is not very helpful. So nobody can wear a strange hat, what´s that about?? No backpacks (small or large), everyone uses them these days and it´s a bit out of date to assume anyone with one is a tourist! If all of us who lived here or are considering doing so has to pay attention to the long list of dos and donts then quite frankly it is not worth the hassle. In London I never had to think about my bag, here it is always on my mind and I´ve only had possessions stolen once and that was on a bus so crowded I was wedged in so tightly I couldn´t move my arms, despite the fact that my bag was in front of me and fully zipped a latino scumbag managed to take out my purse and quickly got off the next stop, I saw him but couldn´t move! The police here are terrible, not surprising with their third world salaries, my brother´s a cop in the UK and earns 8 times more. Over here the police are so relaxed they are almost horizontal. Not only that they openly smoke on duty and this gives a very bad impression. My partner was attacked by one of the Pakistani illegal beer sellers who have invaded the city in the last couple of years and flout the law with impunity as they know they can get away with it. We were walking along the cesspit that is called the Ramblas at around 3am (full of prostitutes, Eastern European mafia and pakis). We are so sick of being approached by the beer sellers that my partner lost his temper and told one of them to **** off. The said Pakistani threw a can at him and hit him hard on the head, when I looked at him I saw blood pouring down his head and was in shock. I took him over the police station literally on the Ramblas, the police simply standing there looking out on the debauchery that happens every night, doing nothing. I spent a long time talking to them and basically they said their hands were tied! They insisted my boyfriend had a tetanus shot as they knew that the Paki beer sellers keep their stash in the sewers below which are full of rats and they said he could get a nasty infection. My partner had to have stitches but the Paki got away with it and is no doubt still there peddling his wears. Our life here is a misery, especially from Thurs to Sun night when the streets of the old town (we live there) are full of low life. We can´t sleep at night due to the noise in the street caused by the locals and tourists hanging around longer due to being able to buy beer until 5am and stand in the street shouting and screaming. I´ve called the police so many times and am sick of it. Now I´ve noticed the Paki beer sellers are starting to spread further out of their area and start selling earlier and earlier, nobody does a thing. Going to the local beach is out of the question as I go there to relax but now you get bombarded with beer sellers, Chinese massage women and Africans selling rubbish, each illegal immigrant has their speciality. There was a report on the local tv about the beach beer sellers who were filmed undercover and are actually selling Class A and B drugs and the Chinese massage girls are offering hand jobs, it has become an open sewer. We are planning to move back to London early next year as we´ve had enough. London has its problems but since living here I realise that we are exposed to much more crime than we ever were back home. My father is Spanish, obviously from another era, things were different in his days and when I was coming here as a youngster. This is an over liberal society that has a stigma about right wing politics and the legacy of Franco, I believe for this reason the police don´t want to be seen to be heavy handed in any way and have gone to the other extreme in order to placate the lefty socialists that prevail this city. The mass tourism here is necessary to the locals whether they like it or not, quite frankly there is little other industry going on and most people live off the tourists in some shape or form. As this is the case they should not bite the hand that feeds them, tourists will not keep coming as things decline to the level they have or likely to get worse. Barcelona is just as expensive as London (I know this for a fact) so there are plenty more places people who don´t want to be robbed can go. It saddens me to see this happen to my father´s city but I´ve had enough!!!!

  • Never been mugged or pickpocketed in Barcelona in 50 years. First place, use common sense. Don’t dress like a tourist. For example; no strange hats, don’t use socks if using sandals, don’t hang, no hanging bags. Forget about backpacks, small bags, small backpacks, as to cameras, expensive cameras attracts thiefs. Watch out for people behind you, or lurking around. Avoid gypsies and crowds and be extremely careful in Gothic, Born and Ramblas. Keep your valuables at the hotel safe. Why do you tiurist tote expensive cameras, expensive pcs, bags with money, etc, with you? Dress modestly.

  • Hollis—Thanks for your comment. You’re much more observant that most people if you’ve spotted 6 or 7 incidents of thievery in a week. By now I bet you’ve seen more more. You have choices about how to use your advantage. I’d love to hear how it’s going for you after a few months in Barcelona. I hope you like the city as much as Bob and I do, despite the level of street crime. Please write again!

    Although the crime is easy to spot if you’re looking, it isn’t easy to solve. A complicated set of circumstances make change unlikely—the same circumstances that help make Barcelona the lively, creative, freewheeling city that it is. I touched on some of those issues in this very post.

  • Hello, my wife and I recently moved to Barcelona from New York. We’re currently apartment hunting and so we’ve been bopping all around the city. In less than 1 week we have seen 6-7 instances of petty crime, whether in action or precautions against crime. Twice now I have watched someone try to pick-pocket in the metro. The first time a man kept inching closer and closer in a packed subway car around the 2 o’clock lunch rush hour. He hovered a jacket draped over his arm over a woman’s bag and tried to put his hand in but I made it obvious to him that I saw what he was trying to do and he glared back at me like the devil. I was so scared since this was the first time I was knowingly standing next to a criminal petty or otherwise that I let him go because I knew he had not been successful. Just 5 minutes ago I watched 3 Arab guys inch closer and closer to me as I watched one of the guys holding a map hover right over my bag which was directly in front of me; I watched him keep trying to maneuver the map and inch closer to my bag. I looked directly at him and said JODER (FUCK) and then looked at my wife (who is Spanish) and said “again” as in here is one of these fuckers again. The man smirked at me and winked and left the train. It was pretty horrifying. Both times. The level of sleaze and total disregard by the local authorities. I’m not a policeman or a rocket scientist but this crime is so pervasive that one small step forward in my mind is to put plain clothes police officers in the subway cars and have them watch for these crimes. They’re so easy to witness happening in action, and with video surveillance, you have proof and can start locking these guys up. At least that would deter crimes from happening. Why can’t this happen? I can think of no other reason but complacency? I’m only 1 week into what I was hoping was going to be the start of a nice new life in Barcelona but I’m very concerned about this crime. Anyone care to comment? If there is anything locally that I can do I would like to take local action to provide feedback. If I could speak to the President of Catalunya I would. Someone needs to wake up the local authorities to this major problem.

  • I am livid, my husband is currently out in Barcelona on a stag weekend. I have learnt that on the way back to his hotel he got jumped upon by 3 men and they stole his chain from around his neck. He said the police are a useless and dont care as it is so common. I would never go to Barcelona because of this and reading other peoples reviews is sounds horrible. I am sure he cant wait to come home, but i am annoyed this has happened as the chain was not cheap!
    Surely the police should be taking some action!

  • I feel for you, Alice. From speaking with thousands of victims, I understand the fear and fury generated by this sort of theft. The “escalator sandwich” is all too common; it works because it seems so real, so innocent. You almost want to bend and pick up the dropped item. It’s evil.

    I know that (some) cruise lines do not believe in warning their passengers about the real risks ashore. They want to maintain the fantasy that all’s well in paradise at all costs. In the words of a manager of one cruise line I shall not name, they prefer to keep their passengers ignorant rather than exposing the “frightening” and “ominous” reality of travel. Shame, isn’t it?

    Sweet that you got your photos back. I have a story about that, too. More than one pickpocket we’ve interviewed has claimed to mail back personal items on occasion. Don’t know if I believe it, but that what some claim.

    You never want to return to Barcelona again, despite the city’s many charms. I hope the city is listening to comments like yours. A serious drop in tourism may rouse a little attention. A serious drop in convention business, where the big bucks are, has got to wake them up to thievery run amok.

    Sadly, I don’t expect a clean-up any time soon. I love Barcelona anyway. That’s why we’ll tell anyone “go—but stow your stuff safely.” Turn your travel concerns into travel confidence. Thanks for sharing your experience and feelings.

  • Shivers go up my spine thinking back to the day we were pick-pocketed in Barcelona about 5 years ago. Let me tell you the ruse that our guys used. We were in the metro approaching the top of a tall escalator when the 2 guys in front of dropped an empty plastic asthma inhaler. They picked it up and pushed us back and we we scared we were going to fall down the steps. The guy behind us pushed us back forward and at the same time relieved my husband of his wallet. Since I have asthma the empty inhaler made my brain flash and my husband must have slightly felt the thief. In a second we were yelling in English and Spanish – “Stop Thieves” and gave chase up the steps to the street. But since we were 50 yrs.+, they were out of sight. I still kept yelling every bad word I knew in Spanish and looked for 5 minutes. Finally, we gave up and went to the local police station to make a report. We were treated politely and they took descriptions of the men and the incident and helped me when I just couldn’t find the best word in my not-so-perfect Spanish. Like others who have written on this site, we are world travelers and have never had any problems on our own before. We reported the credit cards stolen immediately. My husband returned to the US the next day where he changed the bank account because there was a blank check in the wallet. The biggest surprise was when we had identity theft for about the next year. In his wallet were his driver’s license,photos, SS#,and business cards. They kept reopening credit cards in his name and charging about $300 a month on small items and tolls! This was very maddening!!! At least the banks ate all the charges. Now we know what never to carry in our wallets. The biggest surprise of the scenario came about 6 mo. later when an envelope with no return address or enclosure postmarked from Spain arrived. Inside was the plastic sheath containing photos of our beautiful 25 yr. old daughter – all smelling pretty bad. Apparently, some policeman couldn’t stand to throw her pretty photos away! At about the same time we also received his driver’s license along with police forms in the mail.
    I was in Barcelona last summer on a Holland Am. ship. The staff did not warn people at all about the dangers of the city. Eight people were pick-pocketed that day ashore! I was approached as soon as I left the ship by 2 guys with a map. I screamed in Spanish – “GET AWAY- LEAVE ME ALONE!” and they left immediately. But I spent the rest of the day looking over my shoulder even with my necessary items in a money belt inside my pants.
    I plan to return on another cruise this summer that ends in Barcelona. I plan to jump ship in the last port (Livorno) before Barcelona. I have no further need for that city, even with some very lovely sights.

  • Hello SamsonsMummy,

    Here is Bob replying today while Bambi is deep in South Africa. The 57 bags, from that police district is not particularly unusual. We are going to venture or speculate that there are seldom fewer than 200 incidents a day. That is quite comparable to many other big cities around the world.

    But yes, at he same time, Barcelona rates very high in the pecking order of street crime statistics. Fortunately it is not always (or usually not) violent. You don’t get mugged or harmed unless you’re in the wrong district at the wrong time and look like a “good” victim. (good to them)

    This input doesn’t help your situation. Bambi and I fully understand how you feel. Violated, probably, more than anything else. And then there is the question of feeling foolish, probably — could you have avoided this with more street savvy awareness?

    I like your comments about cameras. That is a very thorny question in Spain. And certainly in Barcelona. All across Europe the attitude to this varies enormously depending on past experiences and privacy laws. Both Italy and Spain have a Fascist history and they are not keen on bringing back anything that smacks of a police state. Even the UK, where we have plenty of cameras, have an ongoing dialog of pros & cons. The truth is that unless you also have experienced staff monitoring the cameras it really doesn’t do much to hinder crime itself.

    Of course there are drastic scenarios where cameras have had a huge positive impact like in South Africa. But there we have extreme violence coupled with petty theft and street crime. The staff screening their monitors is huge in both Cape Town and Johannesburg, and very efficient.

    I doubt this will ever happen in Barcelona in a restaurant. Now, the main question, did the employee act as a partner in the crime? You would have to define the actual incidence better in order to judge. Exact positions of all ‘bodies.’ Who made eye-contact with whom? Precisely where on the floor was the bag, how big, what handles and so forth. But I can tell you, with about eighty percent certainty, that you are probably wrong. There would be a pattern established and the employee would be fired after two or three incidents. Much more likely is a technique where the bag can be slid along the floor at the very moment when your eye-contact was shielded by the body and/or legs of this employee approaching you. The thief knew precisely when the perfect moment was (or is) and may have had a scout in there a few minutes before scanning the guests and their belongings.

    I know that you want to know exactly what tools and what technique I am talking about. But here is the rub, and the reason why I am seldom writing on my own blog: the bad guys also read these posts and we are not about to embellish and increase their knowledge base of nasty gadgets. For that reason we will not reveal how it was done.

    The bottom line, yes, you could probably have avoided this theft, had you NOT left the bag on the floor. Something Bambi and I never do in most places we visit.

    Pickpockets have their own pecking order of admiration (or respect), from the lowest scum to the brilliant executioners of clever distraction techniques and equally smooth coordination in the actual moment of extraction. THIS was not a high-end thief.

    cheers, and thanks for posting your story on our site — hope this will help others by being even more vigilant when visiting Barcelona. Many regions in Spain have similar problem as does the South of France and some cities in Italy.

    We can go on about where the threats are highest, but that’s not what you want in this post — if you are really interested in this subject matter, read our book Travel Advisory! How to avoid thefts, cons and scams while Traveling.

    Bob Arno

  • Just returned from a few days in Barcelona with my family. We were aware of the crime and were extremely vigilant at all times. However my sisters bag was stolen in a Pizza Hut restaurant. We are 100% certain that our waitress stole it. The restaurant was empty when a man walked in and stood behind the waitress as she served us, we know realise she passed the bag onto him. As my sister was sitting with her back against a wall it was impossible for anyone to get near to her, other than the waitress. The police said they had 57 bags reported stolen at that police station alone, that day! They said they could not do anything about the crime and that Pizza Hut and McDonalds were the most likely places for thieving, but the companies will not install CCTV in them!! So basically, dont assume that staff are honest! And quess what – she had the audacity to fetch us the bill!!

  • Sadly I could not agree more. My wife and I and children and granddaughter have just returned from Barcelona for my wife’s birthday, November 2008. We have travelled all over but in Barcelona I was very worried about the feeling of crime. We were constantly being misdirected and approached from various sides and I could not relax at all. I was anxious about my granddaughter who is only 5 and terrified when people tried to approach her. We ended up by mistake in dark lanes only 2 or 3 streets from the Ramblas and were surrounded by beggars and people watching from doorways and corners.

    As it happened we were mugged in our hotel which was quite a smart hotel in Placa Catalunya. !0 am in the morning sat in the lounge waiting for breakfast and a team of 4 people surrounded my wife with requests for information on local news and within 30 secs her handbag with money cards iphone camera and glasses had gone. The CCtv clearly shows it happening but everyone shrugs their shoulders and say ‘this is Barcelona’.

    Like us keep an eye on your selves while on the streets and don’t let anyone distract you, but don’t think you are safe in the hotels either.

  • As you found out, Mike, street crime in Barcelona is pretty much a free-for-all. The best that we visitors can do is report. Make local police reports (though it might take hours and feel fruitless) and report to the embassy/consulate. City officials might get serious about getting thieves off the street when the city is seriously hurt by the convention business staying away. That’s big bucks.

    Anyway, I feel for you. If your computer is anything like my computer, that was a devastating loss. For everyone, it would be most interesting to hear how the Pigeon Poop Perp made off with your backpack. Their basic M.O. is here:

  • I live in a rather crime ridden part of Brooklyn and I have never had anything stolen (tagged yes) but I had the biggest robbery of my life in Barcelona a couple days ago. I was actually targeted for it three times during my trip but was only the victim once. The gypsy with the carnation trick (I had nothing to steal because all my goods were in a traveler security wallet) the bird poop on your shoulder distraction (lost a backpack with my computer, my passport, my camera) and the last time I had went actually hunting for thieves (what can I say I wanted revenge) and had a guy pull the “can you help me I’m a tourist trick.” That trick depends on two of his partners then showing up, pretending to be cops and beating up the victim.

    I scrammed as soon as the two other guys showed up.

    The police don’t care there. I saw two robberies which made me buy the security wallet, and I’ve never felt I needed it before. I’ve been to Bangkok, Rome, hong kong, Saigon, new Orleans and this is the first place where I feel like crime is winning. On top of it I feel the thieves know this. They are so brazen here.

  • I’ve just returned from Barcelona having spent the last six and a half years there, and was regularly appalled at how local Police handled “petty crime” there. If you’re not injured, it’s not worth their while investigating. I was never robbed myself, but like one of the other people commenting here I am well over 6 foot tall, and look like a skinhead; but what probably kept me safer than most is the fact that I came to Barcelona from Johannesburg via 5 years in New York City. In other words, I was constantly wary and distrustful of everyone. The city is facing a crisis, a tipping point as it were, and runs the risk of attracting no other visitors other than stag and hen parties who are marginally less likely to be victims because they move in packs. One aspect of your site that is commendable is that you don’t single out the Gitanos as the principal culprits, something I’ve sadly noticed elsewhere on many blogs. Although the local gypsies aren’t wholly innocent, nor do they make up the main players in organised pickpocketing or pursesnatching. Keep up the good work, this is a site I will be visiting again.

  • City officials don’t seem to want to face facts. There has been no improvement in the fifteen years I’ve been tracking street crime in Barcelona. Stories like yours must repel many a visitor, to their great loss and, possibly, to their savings.

  • I’ve just returned from 6 weeks in Barcelona, staying in various places around the city. It’s a beautiful place and one that is marked by extremes – inland seems to be the area where locals can walk at any time of day and night, sampling good eats and an easy life, nearer the coast it all gets very busy, hot and somewhat more risky.

    It was the first time I have been robbed in my 34 years, being over 6 foot tall with wide shoulders, black curly hair and a careful nature. I’ve been in central London at all times of day and night, travelled around China, Egypt, Vietnam, Cambodia and Europe and having a button-up or velcro pocket and being alert has been sufficient. Until a late night in the Gothic area in Barcelona, where I was jumped from behind and dragged to the ground where my pockets were emptied. The thieves took my advice and left very quickly but the damage to my knee had already been done – the week’s holiday after working hard for 5 weeks was ruined as I was unable to walk more than a few yards without my ruined ligaments sending shooting pains up my leg. The hospital staff were very kind and my hostel manager – a very kind Indian – actually went out for provisions to see me through the next few days.

    Another guest was dragged to the ground the same night by the hookers that populate the area near McDonald’s but managed to escape with just the loss of some money. A Japanese guy in the hostel was pick-pocketed on the subway but didn’t realise until much later. A couple I met in a bar had their money stolen without realising. Another tutor, a friend of mine, had her bag stolen on the beach.

    Reading that back I don’t know of a worse area for robbery!?

    When I was in Phnom Penh I was warned that if I was out after 2am there was a very real risk that I would be robbed with violence. If I’d known the same could happen in Barcelona I would have been much more careful. And I would have left the city with many more fond memories.

  • James,
    One problem is that pickpocketing is considered “petty crime.” It certainly isn’t petty, when one hears reactions like yours, your girlfriend’s, and other victims’. And it isn’t petty at all when one looks at the the scope of the problem. I know, it’s relative to the big-time criminals who steal millions and murder and deal in drugs, etc.

    As to pickpockets, I don’t see any improvements on the horizon. Teaching travelers to travel safely seems to be the best option for now. My husband, Bob Arno, and I are working on that. You may also have gathered from this site that we train police and security agencies to spot thieves on the street. That is, police and security agencies that care about street crime. Your thief? He’ll keep at it, you can be sure.

  • Hello,

    Just returned from Barcelona, where a low-life, smug, little s**t with blonde hair, restricted me from leaving the train at El-prat de Llobregat station en-route to Sitges, where he slipped his hand into my pocket, removed my travel wallet which contained my passport, credit card, and over 100EUR in cash, and stayed on the train smiling at me as the doors closed.
    My girlfrend was livid with me that i was so stupid to let this happen.
    All the years of being stood like cattle on the London Underground and not being robbed makes me realise how different of a world we live in.
    The local police were not very helpful, as were the Station staff at Sants Estacio.
    I think that there should be a member of staff with compulsory-excellent English skills, as i found that i was alone when i needed help.
    I hope that little git gets what comes to him!

  • Congratulations on a wonderful site!. What an interesting life you lead!
    As someone who has lived in Barcelona for over a year I can vouch that you are not overstating in the slightest the level of petty-and not so petty-crime in the city.
    I found the points you made in relation to the various disparate causes of crime in Barcelona particularly astute.
    One of the interesting things about Barcelona is that it is actually quite rare for a Catalan to be targeted by thieves. A natural consequence of this is that the rampant level of street crime is often not given the attention or priority it deserves. Indeed the authorities often view the problem to lie with the tourists who prop up the economy.
    Similarly, tourists returning from Barcelona often report that they felt completely safe during a brief visit. More often than not these people were traveling in large groups and therefore not particularly tempting targets.
    I have spent many a day sitting on a balcony in the Barrio Gothic counting the minutes before the next scream as some poor person is attacked and robbed. These attacks happen in broad daylight every half hour. The police really don’t seem to care and good luck trying to report a crime-violent or otherwise- after nine pm.
    Anyway, keep up the good work!

  • I truly feel for you, robbed-at-the-Renaissance. Your anger and frustration are palpable, and it’s outrageous that a city should let crime against tourists reach this level. While I’m sad for you, and other victims, I’m also sad for Barcelona, an otherwise glorious city with a reputation that is tarnishing day by day. Thanks for sharing your experience. Bob and I hope to raise awareness of potential visitors, at least those who dare to go. –Bambi

  • Robbed in front of the Renaissance (Marriott) Hotel in broad daylight by three people working together with a get-a-way driver. My husband and two little girls were in the car, helpless. Checking into the hotel…no valet or doorman. Took bags with passports, credit cards, video camera, still camera, etc. Hotel did absolutely nothing except explained that it happens there at least once per month. While waiting at the embassy we met several others that had been robbed at the airport…their bags were stolen curbside when they briefly looked away and another person had their passport stolen on a tour bus. You could not pay me to go back.

  • Barcelona does seem to have a problem. My parents are fairly well travelled, having travelled independently to fair slice of the world including Africa and India.

    They’ve never had a problem anywhere before, despite that. They’re reasonably street-smart and take care to keep things out of sight, and are neither greedy nor stupid.

    However they were done, not once but *twice* by separate groups during less than a day in Barcelona. A simple knife/bag snatch in one, and deliberate vandalism of their hire car at a junction by another (two tyres slashed whilst stopped at a red light).

    They’ve vowed never to go back.

    If a city wants a good reputation they need to work hard to maintain it, and actively fight crime. Barcelona appears to be doing neither.

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