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CRIME

How Barcelona is once again Spain’s pickpocket capital

The theft of a rucksack caught on camera during a TV interview has put the focus on the problem of thievery in the Catalan capital, a trend which has returned in full blast following the end of Covid-19 restrictions. 

How Barcelona is once again Spain's pickpocket capital
Citizens on patrol chase a presumed pickpocket (R) at a metro station in Barcelona in 2019. Non-violent robberies dropped dramatically in the Catalan capital during 2020 and 2021, but the rate is rising sharply now.(Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)

Anyone who’s visited or lived in Barcelona knows how important it is to keep an eye on one’s belongings, especially while on public transport or in the city centre. 

The metropolis of 5.6 million people is particularly notorious for being the pickpocketing capital of Spain.

Barcelona is in many senses a victim of its own popularity, with a study in July 2022 crowning it the most visited city in Europe this summer. 

One of the consequences of this is that Barcelona has become a goldmine for low-level criminals who not only exploit the abundance of distracted tourists exploring the city’s beautiful sights, but also the fact that Spanish law allows them to steal goods worth less than €400 and not face a prison sentence if caught.

The issue was encapsulated in near-scripted style when during a recent TV interview in which a tourist was singing the praises of the Catalan capital, a thief is seen in the background picking up a rucksack and walking away with it.

Between January and June of 2022, 36,386 hurtos took place in Barcelona, according to the Spanish government’s latest Crime Report

The word hurto in Spanish encompasses different non-violent forms of stealing other people’s property, from pickpocketing to stealing from shops or burglaries. 

This equates to 200 reported non-violent robberies a day in Barcelona.  

During the first three months of 2022, Catalonia’s Mossos d’Esquadra wished to stress that the 17,000 non-violent robberies committed in Barcelona were “far” from the levels seen in 2019, before the pandemic’s lockdown as well as domestic and travel restrictions which resulted in fewer locals and tourists whom to rob in 2020 and 2021. 

They did however acknowledge that the data suggested that there was a return to “normality” vis-a-vis such felonies. 

As things stand, the 36,386 non-violent robberies recorded in the first half of 2022 are far lower than the 67,637 that were reported during the first six months of 2019, a record year for crime in the Catalan capital, as hurtos shot up by 40 percent compared to 2018 figures. 

But the rise has been even sharper in 2022, with a spike of 79.2 percent in the number of non-violent robberies during the first half of the year. When data for July and August is included in the next report, the increase could be even more dramatic.

Worryingly, the rate of violent crimes has also shot up by 41 percent. There have been reports in the Catalan press and videos shared online showing how organised gangs are now focusing on stealing jewellery and luxury watches from passers-by, violently yanking the items off the victims in broad daylight. 

As for burglaries, Barcelona is not the city with the highest rate of break-ins in Spain in 2022, according to Spanish insurance company Estamos Seguros, but it is the city where the value of the items stolen by burglars is on average highest. 

Pickpocketing remains the most common form of non-violent robbery in the Catalan capital however, with reoffending criminals unfazed by being apprehended by police. 

READ ALSO: How a crime wave in Barcelona is turning residents into citizen crime fighters

A change to Spain’s Criminal Code implemented in July 2022 which will see reoffending thieves who steal goods worth less than €400 stand before a judge may help quash such impunity.

It’s worth noting that non-violent robberies have increased by 51 percent on average across Spain in 2022, but Barcelona once again stands out as the city where pickpocketing and other forms of stealing is rife, higher than in other big cities such as Madrid and Valencia where non-violent theft is also an issue.

Member comments

  1. Barcelona is the only place in Spain I’ve ever felt unsafe or had an issue. Came very close to having my camera grabbed out of my coat pocket. I saw the pickpocket’s hand at the last second and spun around. He ran off. Barcelona is giving Spain a bad reputation.

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TAX FRAUD

Spanish court orders Shakira to stand trial in tax fraud case

A Spanish court has ordered Colombian music superstar Shakira to stand trial in a tax fraud case at a date yet to be determined, court documents showed on Tuesday.

Spanish court orders Shakira to stand trial in tax fraud case

Prosecutors in Barcelona said in July they would seek a prison sentence of more than eight years against the singer and a fine of nearly €24 million ($24 million), after she rejected a plea deal over accusations of tax evasion.

They accuse the 45-year-old “Hips don’t Lie” songstress of defrauding the Spanish tax office of €14.5 million ($14.7 million) on income earned between 2012 and 2014.

Prosecutors say Shakira moved to Spain in 2011 when her relationship with FC Barcelona defender Gerard Pique became public but maintained official tax residency in the Bahamas until 2015.

The couple, who have two children, announced their separation in June. On September 19, a Barcelona court ordered the singer to stand trial for six tax crimes, according to a court ruling made public on Tuesday.

In an interview published in Elle magazine last week, Shakira said she was confident she had behaved correctly and did not owe the Spanish tax office anything.

“These accusations are false,” she said.

“While Gerard and I were dating, I was on a world tour. I spent more than 240 days outside Spain, so there was no way I qualified as a resident,” she added.

“The Spanish tax authorities saw that I was dating a Spanish citizen and started to salivate. It’s clear they wanted to go after that money no matter what.”

Shakira’s lawyers have said that until 2014 she earned most of her money from international tours, moved to Spain full time only in 2015 and has met all her tax obligations.

The singer says she has paid €17.2 million to Spanish tax authorities and has no outstanding debts.

She argues Spanish prosecutors are trying to claim money she earned during her international tour and from her participation on the show “The Voice”.

She was a judge on the show in the United States, when she says she was not yet resident in Spain.

A Barcelona court in May dismissed an appeal from the singer to drop the charges.

Shakira was named in one of the largest ever leaks of financial documents in October 2021, known as the “Pandora Papers”, among public figures linked to offshore assets.

With her mix of Latin and Arabic rhythms and rock influence, three-time Grammy winner Shakira scored major global hits with songs such as “Hips don’t Lie”, “Whenever, Wherever” and “Waka Waka”, the official song of the 2010 World Cup.

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