Monday, April 20, 2009

The Plague of Pickpockets - Part 1

Pickpocketing is, unfortunately, all too common here in Barcelona.  And, for a city that prides itself as a top tourist destination, it's a real travesty that there isn't more done to control it.  In fact after this weekend, I'm beginning to suspect that there might be something more sinister - perhaps even possible collusion between the police, the bar owners and the thieves themselves.  How can I say this?

On Friday night at around three in the morning, some friends and I were in the city-center on our way to a popular late-night drinking spot known as the Kentucky Bar just off Las Ramblas.  Taking a right on  Carrer de l'Arc del Teatre, we readied ourselves for the worst when the lamps illuminating our way suddenly cut, leaving the small street in complete darkeness.  A burst of flickering lighters lit up the black sky and the barks of many men rang out, looking to confuse and disorient us as we ran the pickpocket gauntlet on our way to the bar.  Their hands reaching in our pockets and snatching at our jackets, timely thrown elbows and fists made sure that they got nothing.  But, given that there were at least fifty people on the street, they didn't come away empty handed, and the shouts of their victims cut through the air as we came to the closed metal shutter of the bar and a bouncer telling us to wait.  Then ten minutes later, the lamps came back on and the thieves disappeared back into the shadows, leaving the brightly lit street as it had been - seemingly safe and harmless - and the bar shutter opened for business. Was this an isolate incident?  That I do not know, but if anyone else has had a similar experience: Please get in touch because I suspect that it wasn't.

Even if it was: I'd still like to know who turned off the lights, how did the thieves know it was going to happen, and why was there not one police officer there either before or after?  The lamps are run by the city.  Was this a scheduled maintenance?   Leaving aside that nothing gets turned off-and-on in ten minutes in Spain, who would have scheduled such a thing at the busiest time of the night when the Las Ramblas is teaming with people coming out of the closing bars? And, why pick a street famous for its late-night watering holes like the Kentucky and Moog?  Then again - if it wasn't the city - who was it?  Do the thieves now have access to switch-boxes for certain streets, or is it that the owners are willing to give them ten minutes in some type of agreement?  Which begs the question: Why have the police done nothing to stop this?

Like I said at the beginning: These are just suspicions.  But something smells fishy about this, and it's scandalous that tourists are being sacrificed to the lowest life-forms of the city as the police and bar owners do nothing, or worse - are seemingly complicit in it.  And, while it is undoubtedly important to learn how to avoid being pickpocketed, I think it's also time to start learning why it is allowed to happen and what can be done to stop it.  So again, if anyone has something to add, let me know and let's see what we can do.
Pantalla completa


  1. I hear rumours that a vigilante group is being set-up to patrol pickpocket hot-spots like Calle Princesa / Calle Carders to nab the bastards.

  2. It does seem that it has to come to that - as much as I deplore violence. I'd be interested in learning more