Mugged in Barcelona
Getting mugged in Barcelona is almost a cliche. Before we left for Spain, a friend warned us about the dangers of the Ramblas or Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter) area as her friend had been pick-pocketed there. Just google “Barcelona crime” and you will get hundreds of stories of unfortunate victims.
We choose to stay near this area since anyway since its Barcelona’s most famous street, and for good reason. The array of fabulous restaurants, tapas bars, pubs, street musicians, and gothic architecture ensures that there is never a dull moment.
It was “Little Black Dress Night” and the four of us were decked out for a night of Spanish debauchery. We started out by bar-hopping in the Barri Gòtic, sampling the fine Catalan wine and tapas. For dinner, we headed to Los Caracoles (meaning “the snails”) right on Escudellers Street, a winding, dark cobble stoned street that makes you feel as if you are in a vampire movie.
Our appetizers were excelllent and before dinner arrived, Charlotte asked Mihae to step outside with her for a clove cigarette she picked up on the Costa Brava. They were outside not more than five minutes when a tall lanky man ran past Mihae and grabbed her purse and camera, both of which were hanging from her wrist.
Mihae instinctively pulled back, struggling to keep her belongings from being stolen. The struggle went on only a few seconds before her camera strap broke and the thief took off down the alley. Charlotte, clad in a long black dress and heals, chased him down the street, but we’re all pretty glad she didn’t catch him.
According to Frommer’s:
While most of Spain has a moderate level of conventional crime, and most of the estimated one million American tourists have trouble-free visits to Spain each year, the principal tourist areas have been experiencing an increase in violent crime. Barcelona has reported growing incidents of muggings and violent attacks, and older tourists and Asian-Americans seem to be particularly at risk. Criminals frequent tourist areas and major attractions such as museums, monuments, restaurants, hotels, beach resorts, trains, train stations, airports, subways, and ATMs.
Reported incidents have occurred in key tourist areas such as La Rambla and the narrow lanes of the Barri Gòtic. Travelers should exercise caution, carry limited cash and credit cards, and leave extra cash, credit cards, passports, and personal documents in a safe location. Crimes have occurred at all times of day and night, though visitors — and residents — are more vulnerable in the early hours of the morning.
Thieves often work in teams or pairs. In most cases, one person distracts a victim while the accomplice performs the robbery. For example, a stranger might wave a map in your face and ask for directions or “inadvertently” spill something on you. While your attention is diverted, an accomplice makes off with the valuables. Attacks can also be initiated from behind, with the victim being grabbed around the neck and choked by one assailant while others rifle through the belongings. A group of assailants may surround the victim, maybe in a crowded popular tourist area or on public transportation, and only after the group has departed does the person discover that he has been robbed. Some attacks have been so violent that victims have needed to seek medical attention afterward.
Theft from parked cars is also common. Small items like luggage, cameras, or briefcases are often stolen from parked cars. Travelers are advised not to leave valuables in parked cars and to keep doors locked, windows rolled up, and valuables out of sight when driving. “Good Samaritan” scams are unfortunately common. A passing car will attempt to divert the driver’s attention by indicating there is a mechanical problem. If the driver stops to check the vehicle, accomplices steal from the car while the driver is looking elsewhere. Drivers should be cautious about accepting help from anyone other than a uniformed Spanish police officer or Civil Guard.
We still enjoyed the rest of our time in the city and would recommend visiting it. We were so lucky that nothing more was taken and most importantly we weren’t hurt. Our best advice is to not bring a purse at all. Keep your money in a money pouch and don’t keep anything in your pockets.