Photo by Francesca Maggio
Dani Malave, a 23-year-old student from Madrid, was walking down a well-lit and busy street in Barri Gòtic with a group of friends when her bag was abruptly snatched from her hand. “I was walking with about six other people and was holding onto it pretty tight, or I thought I was,” she told Metropolitan. “But a guy came up from behind and before I knew it both he and my bag had disappeared down a side street."
It is a common scenario that occurs far too frequently—the skill of Barcelona’s pickpockets and petty thieves has become an infamous part of the city’s reputation. Tourists tend to be the victims of theft and bag snatching as they are less watchful, but residents are also vulnerable. No matter how long people have lived in the city, or how aware they are of common-sense rules such as staying in well-lit areas and not walking around the streets alone, one unguarded moment can lead to the loss of a bag, and more.
When people bring a bag out with them, it often contains their lives broken down into essential, expensive components: mobile phone, wallet, identity card, bank cards, camera, keys, not to mention items of personal value such as photos or keepsakes. When the bag disappears down a dark alley, all these possessions vanish too, leading to complicated insurance claims (if there is insurance) and weeks of waiting before they can be replaced. Anything without monetary value is lost forever. However, a couple of steps may serve to minimise the losses.
The first is a defensive attitude. When walking around the city, especially at night, it makes sense to never carry more than absolutely necessary, and to not carry all items of value in one place. Carry a bag on an unexposed arm, be it one near a wall or on the inside if walking in a pair or in a group, and hold it underneath a coat if possible.
The second step is possession recovery. If a bag is stolen, check the bins around the area the incident took place, as bags tend to be discarded quickly, sometimes with just the obvious items of value taken. And it is always worth reporting the incident to the police. The Guàrdia Urbana station on the Ramblas is open 24 hours, although they may send victims to the Mossos d’Esquadra to file the incident. Alternatively, victims can call 112, or report the theft online, an option that is becoming more and more popular—online denuncias rose 74 percent between 2005 and 2006. It is necessary to go in person to sign it within 72 hours, but it saves a lot of time queuing.
Not only does reporting the crime allow people to file claims on their insurance, but the bag or some of its contents may be found or handed in. Sam Willmot, a British student currently living in Barcelona, had her bag and all its contents, except her mobile phone and some cash, returned to her a week after it was stolen. “The best thing was not having to go through the hassle of cancelling and replacing all the cards,” she said.
Theft is an inevitable danger of city life, but it doesn’t always have to end in the worst-case scenario.
Guàrdia Urbana 24-hour station—La Rambla 43; Tel. 092 or 93 256 2430
Mossos d’Esquadra—Nou de la Rambla 76; Tel. 088 or 93 306 2300
General emergency number—112
To file an online denuncia—www.gencat.net/mossos. Available in Catalan, Castilian, English, French, Italian and German.