Barcelona hit by 30% rise in ‘violent and intimidating robberies’

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The number of violent and intimidating robberies in the Spanish tourist city of Barcelona has increased by 30% since the beginning of the year, police say.

Muggings and street robberies are increasingly frequent in the Mediterranean city, often targeting tourists.

Nearly 16 million people visit the city each year, with 12 million of those being foreigners.

The 30% increase is compared to the same period in 2018.

Police director Andreu Martinez said the crimes had “generated a heightened perception of insecurity”.

He did not say what he thinks is behind the more violent and organised attacks but he did say that arrests for such crimes have gone up by 80% this year.

Figures show that of those 1,627 arrested, some 159 people were kept in custody until trial.

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In June, a South Korean official died after being knocked down by a thief on a motorbike who tried to snatch her purse.

Pickpocketing has long-been a problem in the Spanish city
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Pickpocketing has long-been a problem in the Spanish city

Even an FBI agent, holidaying in the city, had his watch stolen in the city centre this month.

And earlier this week, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Spain was knocked to the ground by a group of attackers who stole his watch. His leg was hurt in the attack.

The US has issued a warning to tourists over “petty theft schemes that have included acts of violence, such as aggressive thefts of jewellery, watches and purses”.

Barcelona, famous for its beaches, cuisine and architectural delights, has a population of 1.6 million people.

The city has long been considered safe, except for a persistent problem of pickpockets who target the large number of tourists flooding the destination each summer.

But crimes have now turned more aggressive, with thieves working in groups and using force to steal the property of victims.

Police did not say what they believe has caused the rise in violent crime.

Barcelona is visited by millions of tourists each year
Image:
Barcelona is visited by millions of tourists each year

Some locals point to the several thousand underage migrants, mostly from Morocco and Algeria, who have arrived to Spain without their parents in recent years.

Those fears have been the focus of right-wing parties.

Police statistics indicate that 12% of those minors have committed a crime that employed violence or the threat of violence since arriving to the region of Catalonia.

Albert Batlle, the head of security for Barcelona’s town hall, has said that these minors should be returned to their families.

Chakir el Homrani, the regional chief for social affairs, has maintained it is more of a social problem.

Police officials complain about light punishments for petty theft, where even repeat offenders are often allowed to pay a fine instead of doing jail time for thefts for of less than €400 (£361).