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Barcelona -- pick pockets and sneak thieves

Barcelona -- pick pockets and sneak thieves

May 3rd, 2010, 09:54 AM
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How long are Barcelonian (?) officials gonna put up with what, along with Madrid IMO is Europe's most serious street crimes against tourists?

They must realize, that with the Internets and all, the problem is getting wide coverage and hurting the tourist industry.

Do they ever think of undercover cops posing as naive tourists?

Why has this been allowed to fester so so long - years now?

And i guess this post will finally shut up those who always come on these type posts and say this simply is not true - too many Fodorites have been victimized for it not to be a major major problem.
Palenque is offline  
May 4th, 2010, 03:30 AM
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Careful in Ramblas!!
nobodyhome is offline  
May 4th, 2010, 04:36 AM
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MartaD that was a terrible experience and we have had similar experiences. Too spend that kind of money and not enjoy. But It's been like that for decades. How about Rome, or Paris, ect. Our first trip to Europe was Amsterdam in 1988. There are signs everywhere in Dam square-beware of pickpockets. We have been to Europe another 29 times since that first trip. I had my pocket picked of 1400 FF'S [about $200US] on a Paris subway. Took about an 'hour' to get over it. On another trip to Paris, My son-in-law lost his camera on a subway. Then in the early ninties in Budapest, the beware of everything at the train station. Yes, these things happen, but it's not just in Barcelonia. For us, you can't go to Europe scared of thieves, just 'aware' of thieves. How about taxi cab rip-offs. We had one in Barcelonia and one in Krakow. How about car rental problems. We're all different and it's how we react to these unfortunate incidences. We had a great time in Barcelonia. So, it's SAD that MartaD had this experience and I hope you continue to travel. Just go.
iris1745 is online now  
May 4th, 2010, 05:06 AM
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Losing money and/or cameras is no big deal. Losing ID can be a PIA for years to come.
colduphere is offline  
Jun 11th, 2010, 01:53 AM
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that is sadly a common story in barcelona, and probably in many cities too.
it's good to let people know what really happens, alert tourists, we do what we can, we really don't like this happening in our city, but we cannot fight it...

tips for traveling and surviving barcelona: get here a free pocket guide to the city:

(there is also a complete list of apartments to rent in barcelona, if you are looking for accommodation in the city center or cheap apartments)
margaritaflores is offline  
Jun 11th, 2010, 03:33 AM
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I'm usually in Barcelona 2-3 times / year and just got back again last week.

What makes it easy for pickpockets is that some locations make it extra easy for them. The Rambles attract a huge tourist crowd, which squeezes itself through a narrow "channel" between stands and living statues. The old town with its maze of narrow streets are always nearby.
In any city of this planet, this would be a thieve's prime location.

There is a LOT of police in the streets.
Some of them on scooters (which may not be as visible for a foreigner's eye than a patrol car). Those are most likely to be see on or near the Ramblas since they can follow potential criminals also in the old town (where cars would be useless) or on the waterfront promenades.
Maybe you also did not recognize some police cars, because in Catalunya they have "mossos d'esquadra" or (in Barcelona) "guardia urbana" on their cars -- and "policia" only in small print.

The situation on the metro does leave room for improvement, IMO, though. Nevertheless, most metros consist of several cars. If you multiply that by five major lines, running every 2-3 minutes, you will end up with a number of traffic cops that no city on this planet would be able to finance.
On the other hand, I do ride the metro at any time of the day or night. Last saturday I had to take it across the central part of the city at 2am, and I was pleasantly surprised that I saw no drunks or otherwise nerving people in the stations or on the train. Since I was used to ride the subway in Berlin for more than a decade, I find Barcelona's transit system less challenging.

In what is now 6 or 7 trips to Barcelona, I *think* I was checked out by a pickpocket once: when I was staring up Sagrada Familia from the outside, with my bagpack over my shoulder. One of the zippers was open afterwards, but since there was nothing in the bagpack worth taking (except a bottle of water, a city map, and some other items of no importance), there was nothing missing.
I switched from using daypacks to messenger bags since then. I got one made from recycled advertising banners which are made in Barcelona. I think it looks "local enough" for the thieves.. but that would imply that Barcelona's citizens would be immune from pickpockets, which they are probably not.

As much as I am NOT intimidated by Barcelona at any time of day or night, not even at night in the Raval, I would not want to walk around with a big camera around my neck, and camera backpack on my shoulders. I think the only way to do it would be like OP did, with a 2nd person scanning the area.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Jun 11th, 2010, 04:53 AM
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I disagree with the Cowboy about Las Ramblas in that i have never EVER felt as if i were "forced" through some channel of people....I may have DECIDED to navigate my way through those channels and that is a DECISION I MADE on my own.

The only place I have ever been pickpocketed was on the Barcelona Metro and at the time I know there was something amiss but by the time I gathered my wits what little money I had in my pccket was gone.

Pickpockets are VERY VERY clever...at least the good ones are and I am sorry but no book, website, or anything else is going to tell you "where they hang out" because by the time the news gets out they have gotten your money and left for some new place to work.

ANY crowded spot in which you allow yourself to get in the middle of..yes YOU, is ripe for theft be it in Barcelona or that notorious bus route in Rome.

And then there are all the OTHER people who go to Barcelona over, and over, and OVER again and they never get pickpocketed. Now, don;t you wonder why that is so? Perhaps they were wearing the right clothes?????
Dukey is offline  
Jun 11th, 2010, 05:08 AM
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"And then there are all the OTHER people who go to Barcelona over, and over, and OVER again and they never get pickpocketed. Now, don;t you wonder why that is so? Perhaps they were wearing the right clothes?????"
I think, I am one of those OTHER people.
We were in Barcelona( and Madrid) for the forth time at the end of April. A friend, who works in a tourist industry was very unhappy with the reputation Barcelona was getting.. He said the law was "soft" - even if caught , the pickpockets are just let go.
We have never been pickpocketed or felt unsafe in any way.
I am not sure what the right clothes might be...we dress the same way as we do in our (big) city.
danon is offline  
Jun 11th, 2010, 05:41 AM
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Dukey, there is no disagreement. If tourists decide to hang out at those spots, it's their decision to accept a higher risk since it takes no degree in criminal science to estimate the higher risk to get pickpocketed there.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Jun 11th, 2010, 08:50 AM
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Marta- thanks for alerting us! I've been reading article after article about how the high unemployment rate and severe recession in Spain is leading to more petty crime (including pickpocketers, muggings and purse snatchers). A tourist can become paranoid! I do the following:

1. Dress like the locals (but since we're tourists obviously we're going to touristy places so it doesn't take a genius to know we're not locals!)

2. Wear a money belt under my clothes or (for me) around my neck. Use credit cards whenever we can.

3. Leave valuables at home and/or in the hotel safe (I never wear jewelry other than my wedding ring).

4. Don't keep any valuables (including money) out in the open for hotel staff to see.

5. We walk away from beggars/gypsies/commotions/street entertainers and always keep in mind that they may be potential thieves.

I admit though that if I were to visit a place where everyone tells me to "be careful", it would stress the heck out of me!
layanluvstotravel is offline  
Jun 11th, 2010, 08:56 AM
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danon - you are lucky it seems in view of the spate of other folks who have been victimized - and even you may have benefitted from the many warnings and reports of how rife street crime is in both Madrid and Barcelona and been more vigilent.

and yes wearing expensive jewelry, watches, etc can only increase the odds of being victimized.

I'd say the chances of an average tourist being victimized - we are not just talking about the usual pickpocketing that happens all over Europe but even violent muggings - unheard of in most of Europe IME -but chances are the average tourist will not be victimized - even though the chance of being victimized in these cities is apparently much much higher than in most of Europe.

Yet to report that one never encountered any problems may end up deluding other tourists and they may think there is no problem when there is a serious serious problem that local authorities just can't seem to tackle

If enough publicity deters tourism to these two cities then authorities will act- one reason IMO to keep publicizing this sad state of affairs - the main reason being to warn unsuspecting tourists about the problem because once aware of it then the chances of it happening should decrease - if folks take proper precautions

Hats Off to MartaD for posting these valuable warnings!
Palenque is offline  
Jun 11th, 2010, 09:02 AM
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I'm a frequent traveller throughout Europe - only place Ive ever been mugged is my local supermarket car park at home!
Fashionista is offline  
Jun 11th, 2010, 09:08 AM
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Fashionista gives a perfect example of warnings helping

he/she was muged in her local supermarket parking lot probably because she/he did not ever think there were a possibility of that happening

If she/he had suspected that may have happened he/she may have parked closer to the store - in a better lit area, etc.

Knowledge of the problem is a key to reducing the chances of being victimized.
Palenque is offline  
Jun 11th, 2010, 09:38 AM
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Even the cheapest travel guide you buy, states loud and clear that Barcelona has a problem with pickpockets. Especially at crowded, touristy places. If someone feels uneasy about it, then he should not go.

If someone goes then he should do his share of precautions. Not much cash, leave one CC in hotel, no fat camera (sorry OP, nothing personal), no wallet in back pocket of jeans or outside compartment of bagpack. Avoid places that look not good for you, be it the metro or the Ramblas. Personally I find the Ramblas that little impressive that avoiding it is no major problem. Avoid the metro if you like. Buses go anywhere instead (and you get a free city tour).

As I said, Barcelona is FULL of police on duty. Personally, I find it much more important they focus on those issues that a big port city at the edge of the EU has: illegal immigration, smuggling, drug trafficking, homicide, rapes, gang wars, hit-and-run/drunk drivers, and so on. Rather that than waste yet another cop on saving someone's bagpack. And yes, I know it could be mine.

But I don't need, and I don't want more cops on every street corner. I would not feel safe then but under constant surveillance. Snatching some handbags doesn't make it the Gaza strip.

And if I was in the position to make demands, I want "my" Barcelona to remain the liberal, care-free, over-the-top, "anything goes" city on the Med which it is now.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Jun 11th, 2010, 09:44 AM
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Snatching some handbags doesn't make it the Gaza strip.>

no but it is also violent muggings like the one that left my sis-in-law bloodied and bruised - the thief wanted her daypack and she wanted him to get it since it had nothing of value in it

but thief struggled to get it off - she fell in the gutter and kept trying also to get it off - ended up bruised for rest of trip and could have been worse.

Perhaps do not wear a day pack is the point there.

A few undercover Barcelonans posing as cluless foreign tourists i would think could help solve the problem.

and illegal immigration probably is much of the problem = the miscreants are ubiquitously poor often illegal immigrants and or drug addicts i understand.
Palenque is offline  
Jun 11th, 2010, 10:12 AM
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Just returned from Barcelona - last trip, they got me - this time no problems. We saw more police in the Metro - even riding on some of the lines. We did witness and thwart a pick-pocket attempt - woman was starting to fish in the bag of a metro rider - my daughter shouted and glared at her, she backed out of the car. I got roughly bumped by a passenger? getting on the metro and there was really PLENTY of room for us to both be in the doorway so who knows what that was but my belongings all remained in my possession. So maybe there is some improvement, police wise but still be very careful.
suec1 is online now  
Jun 11th, 2010, 10:58 AM
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Did you notice on the clothing website that the "correct" photo of local clothing for men shows long shorts with shirttails hanging outside right next to:
"Do choose fitted styled clothes. The Spanish dress well and their clothes fit well and look sophisticated."
Kay2 is offline  
Jun 11th, 2010, 01:06 PM
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Funny kind of that Robert Reich, Clinton's Secretary of Labor, last year was robbed of his carry on bag right at the check-in counter at Barcelona's airport - he had all his documents and money in it and had to bum a ride back to the U.S. Consulate to get a new passport and some money.

Now this could happen in any airport but since it was Barcelona it stood out all the more.
Palenque is offline  
Jun 11th, 2010, 01:24 PM
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Pal.. your sis-in-laws mugging happened in Madrid, not Barcelona, if I remember it correct.
I have not yet seen statistics that violent muggings are happening in Barcelona at a significant level, but I am willing to be proven wrong if statistics prove it, and not an incident that happened more than 600kms away.

And, I was NOT saying that illegal immigrants are the usual pickpockets. I was quoting the fight against illegal immigration as a more relevant task among others for the police force.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Jun 11th, 2010, 01:29 PM
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There have been several threads on Fodor's about muggings in Barcelona - it seems about the same. Google Muggings and Barcelona and you will get dozens and dozens of hits - do that for Paris and other European cities and you will get very few.
Palenque is offline  

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