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lreynold1 Feb 27th, 2013 06:54 PM

I probably don't have much to add to all of the wise words in this thread, but I have spent many years on the Iberian Peninsula over the past few decades. I always look like a foreigner and I am always a target. Though I know all of this in my mind, I still don't have those innate reflexes that Spaniards have when it comes to pickpocket-alertness. And I have just decided that I will never have those instincts, I will always slip into inattentiveness and become a target.

So, here's what I do. I just put all of my valuables under my clothes, and then I don't have to worry about being alert or not being alert. I really think that those of us who have grown up in environments where we didn't have to be on the lookout for pickpockets are never going to develop that extra sense when we are traveling. I would much rather not have to worry about whether someone is going to slide up next to me and discreetly open my bag before I realize it. So I just make sure there is nothing in my bag for anyone to get and it all works just fine.

Robert2533 Feb 27th, 2013 07:29 PM

"Pickpockets asking you to sign a petition" is an old Gipsy scam. The problem with Barcelona is that the local police, the Guardia Urbana, do not want to waste their time with petty thefts (under €400 in value), while the Mossos d'Esquadra, Cuerpo Nacional de Policia and Guardia Civil are busy with other crimes, including stopping terrorist.

And yes, as StCirq mentions, that statistically, there are far more pick pocketing incidents in Barcelona (an true international city) and "some" other venues in Spain than other countries, but in Navarra and the Basque country we experience far fewer than the average because of enforcement. It may be a cultural issue (few Basque would tolerate a climate that allowed such behavior), or the fact the most pickpockets (at least 95%) are foreigners, the rest are Gypsies, and stick out like a sore thumb in the Basque country. Also, the Ertzaintza and the Policía Foral de Navarra are not someone a pickpocket wants to mess with. When they put on their black gloves, it's all over.

fmpden Feb 27th, 2013 07:49 PM

Guess we must be doing something wrong. In three visits to Barcelona we had never had a problem.

Rubicund Feb 28th, 2013 12:13 AM

Be careful at ATM's and don't allow anyone to help you or see you enter your PIN number. On escalators the guy at the front pretends to stumble and backs up the crowd whilst his accomplice comes from the back of the throng who are bumping in to each other. Be careful in toilets where there is a gap under the dividing partition and don't put your bag on the floor.

Having said all this and read other posters warnings, you'll have great time in Barcelona and won't have a problem if you have regard to your surroundings. It's not like you'll be constantly on edge, just be sensible. It's a great city and not to be missed.

xyz123, you're missing one of the best cities in the world and have allowed all the stories to deprive you of seeing it. Take proper and sensible precautions and you'll love it.

Dukey1 Feb 28th, 2013 02:30 AM

Nobody FROM Barcelona apparently ever commits a crime; they are all from somwhere else apparently.

MaisiePlague Feb 28th, 2013 04:40 AM

I guess the more tourists there are in Barcelona the more potential pickpockets will be operating which will result in a higher rate of reported incidents. I wonder if visiting the city during the quieter periods, for example during the winter, would reduce the chances of being targeted? It is important to be aware of the risks and the scams and by paying attention and observing the usual precautions you can reduce your risk pretty substantially. If you've got everything of value on your person well tucked away it is unlikely that anyone is going to be able to steal anything from you.

PalenQ Feb 28th, 2013 05:49 AM

Barcelona along with Madrid are the two worst cities in Europe for street crime against tourists - not only pickpockets but outright muggings - ignore anyone who says otherwise - just Google Barcelona and Muggings and Pickpockets and you will find zillions of posts documenting this.

That said knowing the problem and taking prudent precautions greatly lessens the problem - do not avoid Barcelona but be very careful and heed the warnings of the Barcelona Tourist Office.

suec1 Feb 28th, 2013 06:21 AM

I don't think anyone else has suggested this - I really don't like to have my money tucked under my clothing so I look like I'm going into striptease mode to make a purchase or pay a bill so I do carry a purse BUT I separte my cash, cards and leave my passport in my room. I carry one card and just enough cash for the outing / day. It helps that I am not a shopper as I hear sometimes you are asked to show your passport for large purchases.

Again, enjoy Barcelona - it is a wonderful city - hopefully you can keep your group from being victims of these tricky creeps.

mes2525 Feb 28th, 2013 06:40 AM

You have to be careful in any large city. Haven't been in Barcelona in years, but have been to Madrid 4 times since 2005 and have never seen anyone being mugged, pickpocketed, etc. and I ride the metro to and from the airport and all over town. I also stay near the Puerta del Sol and I've never had a problem. All of the tips above are good. I don't carry much with me and I try to put most of it under my jacket. Walk with confidence and they will bother an easy target.

Ackislander Feb 28th, 2013 07:01 AM

Criminals have rights, even in Spain. What can the police do? Beat them up?

Even if they catch them, tourists won't come back to testify against them. Would you fly back to BCN to go to court? Both the crooks and the cops know you won't . That is why they target tourists, not locals.

Keeping your valuables under your clothes only works if you assume you stash is not visible (almost certainly not true) and that Bad Guys are going to be subtle, which is true many places but not apparently in BCN. The kinds of guys who will block your exit and grab you are muggers, not pickpockets and
will gladly reach under your clothes and cut your money belt from the rear.

suec1 Feb 28th, 2013 07:32 AM

"What can the police do" - well the metro police could certainly hassle the ne'er-do-wells, like walk next to them, make announcements that theives are in the station like they do in Paris - I would guess they know them by sight. As I posted, my daughter and I sat and watched for them and we could identify them fairly easily and chased them away by yelling "ladrones". But the fact that it goes on and on year after year really sends a "we just don't care message". I did hear that some of the shops started selling souveniers that had a phrase something like "Barcelona, pickpocket capital of the EU" but some of the politicians made a fuss.

BigRuss Feb 28th, 2013 07:33 AM

<<Yes there is a crisis throughout Europe, as well as in the rest of the world. And yes, some pickpockets (from certain countries) can be overly aggressive, but Barcelona's no different than any other large, busy, tourist filled cosmopolitan city.>>


Barcelona is internationally famous for scams and they pre-date the "crisis throughout Europe" - Barcelona was infamous for pickpocket and petty larceny scams in the 1990s (see here: when Spain's economy hadn't been crushed by Zapatero and the country did not have a Third World unemployment rate.

One true story: in the early '00s, my parents (retirees) went to Barcelona. Getting off the Metro one day they took an escalator to street level. Dad had his bag over his left shoulder, right side to the escalator. At the top a young guy stopped to tie his shoes and blocked the escalator. Dad clocked what was going on, pulled his bag tight, kicked the young guy in the arse and cursed him out, and a split second later another young man ran past Dad on the left side and both jovenes ran up the exit and out of the station together empty-handed.

One reality. Wife, me and two hobbits (then 4 and 1.5) went to Barcelona and stayed in an apartment two blocks from La Rambla. No one came close to trying a scam or pickpocketing us and I keep my wallet in my front (deep) pocket and had the two little distractions running around nearby. I also had on my don't-eff-with-me face.

Fact is, if you keep your stuff with you and stay alert and LOOK alert, you should be fine.

ter2000 Feb 28th, 2013 07:58 AM

On a Barcelona Fat Tyre Bike Tour (recommended btw) we met a German couple who had been pickpocketed TWICE in three days in the city. We all sympathised - what a horrible thing to happen to anyone but TWICE?? Double the disaster.

Then at the stop for the Sagrada Familia, our German couple parked their bikes a little away from the rest of us, left their backpacks with all their remaining valuables in the bike's basket on the handlebars and then wandered about 25 metres away in order to get a good angle on their photographs!!

Literally could not believe it. They didn't even look behind them to see if their bags were safe. Sure enough, along come the n'er-do-wells who hang around all the major tourist sites looking for (and I'm sorry) saps like them. Luckily my husband and I took it upon ourselves to keep an eye on the abandoned stuff and yelled at the potential thieves. Our German friends were thankful, but full of amazement that someone could do such a dishonest thing.

Honestly, these were a couple in their 50's. You'd have to wonder how they survived that long!!

The moral of the story is - after five trips to Barcelona, I have come to the conclusion that all thieves are opportunists. Just don't give them the opportunity. Be on your guard and you'll be just fine.

Alan_CT Feb 28th, 2013 09:37 AM

Whether or not it's fashionable, I carry a "man purse" or small satchel when traveling in any city. It has external and internal zippers and is just large enough to hold my phone, a small camera, papers, cash etc. It's kept zipped and in front of my body when near the Metro or other potential pickpocket area. It's never left on a chair or anywhere separated from my body, and neither is my wife's handbag.

Several times in Barcelona and never targeted, although we did see one would-be thief knocked down on the Metro by his would-be victim.

chapla Feb 28th, 2013 10:04 AM

We all need to accept/ understand is that the pickpockets are professionals.This way of life is their full time job and they are excellent at it.
I have never been a victim but have witnessed people screaming on a bus that were robbed after the thieves jumped off the bus running.I turned a corner and saw what I thought were teenagers having a fight but then figured out they were mugging a man.The taxi drivers took off after them,helped the man but the boys were too fast for them.
I was so shaken up that I had to go and sit down in a cafe for a while.
In Madrid at the US Consulate I had to go with a friend who had had her passport stolen at the Prado.While we waited we chatted with other people and heard horror story after story. Gone are the days of non violent robberies-the muggings were so sad.One was an Asian girl who got mugged on her first day as she was ringing the doorbell to her hostal.......
For the people who have not experienced these crimes,cross your fingers and toes.Do not believe that all the victims are
careless.It's the thieves who are so good at their "jobs".
Also, I have seen an increase in police presence but they must feel the frustration when they arrest young thieves- they cannot be prosecuted because they are minors and are released back into society after 24 hrs to continue to work the streets.
My Spanish friends are really upset about this situation and have also been victims or know others who have suffered.

MaddieEms Feb 28th, 2013 10:07 AM

Thanks everyone.

Suec1, ter2000 & BigRuss--thanks for your anecdotes. Will note them. BigRuss---I have a don't F*&* with me face. The rest of my very polite family do not.

Like I said in the initial post, I understand and expect opportunistic stealing and pickpocketing.

I am more concerned about outright muggings and basically someone ripping a DSLR out of my father's hands (he is not very aware of his surroundings AT ALL). I'll just have to stand next to his back whenever he takes a picture.

There's nothing really to steal from us. At most I'll have a diaper bag with diapers/baby bottles. I keep my money in my bra. I don't get embarrassed about stuff like that and if I need large amounts of cash I go into the bathroom or the dressing room of the store I'm in to take it out.

We're traveling with retirees and babies so I was more concerned about getting hurt if someone grabs one of us.

Just curious--is "pepper spray" sold in the US allowed in the EU?

Robert2533 Feb 28th, 2013 10:50 AM

Just curious--is "pepper spray" sold in the US allowed in the EU?

Each country has their own requirements and restrictions to it's use and possession. In some it's considered a weapon. In others it's not. What's available in the States may not meet the same requirements as a country you're planning on visiting, but don't try to board your flight with any, even in your checked luggage. You could end up spending your holiday in a small dark room behind a locked door.

PalenQ Feb 28th, 2013 10:54 AM

Michael Feb 28th, 2013 11:03 AM

<i>One often used tactic is blocking the door as people get on or off the metro - one blocks, causing a back-up, his partner fishes</i>

a variant is having someone drop something "important" at the top of the escalator, causing a back-up ...

It happened to us, but my wife does not carry anything important in her purse--they got an empty glass case which they returned as "found" on the ground.

anyegr Feb 28th, 2013 11:09 AM

I was in Barcelona in December 2012 and had no problems at all. I am female, about forty and not very large. I walked a lot and also used the metro and the Hop-On-Off Bus. I walked on Las Ramblas every day, since the hotel was on a side street and there were a lot of police walking around there. There were beggars in the metro and out on the streets, but I never felt threatened.

I had most of my money and both debit cards in a moneybelt under my clothes and never accessed it in public. My passport and about 40 Euro were in a neckpouch. I had lots of coins (sometimes over 20 Euro) and a couple of smaller bills (5 or 10 Euro) in my pockets, easily accessible when I wanted to buy something. I keep track of my purchases and know that I did not lose any money to thieves.

My camera, a cheap digital thing, was in my hand or a pocket at all times. I did carry a messenger-style bag, to put any purchases in, but the only thing I would have been really upset over losing from it would have been the entry tickets for whatever I was doing that day. The soda bottle and paper tissues would have been easy enough to replace.

I think going in December helped. It was cold enough that a closed jacket was needed and that can hide a lot. I'd be more worried in summer, when a moneybelt or neck-pouch can be seen through a thin blouse or t-shirt.

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