‘Overworked’ police officers in one of Europe’s most popular destinations, Barcelona, have been handing out fliers to tourists advising them on the best ways not to become a victim of the city’s soaring crime rate, writes David Ing
They say that the warning is needed because they are seriously undermanned and cannot offer sufficient coverage in Spain’s second largest city, where reported crimes shot up by more than 20 per cet in the first half of the year.
Their campaign platform, called MosSOS – combining the name of the Catalan regional police force (Mossos) and the international rescue call – got underway on the steps of Barcelona’s best-known landmark, the cathedral of La Sagrada Familia. Spokeswoman Inma Viundes said their main aim was to highlight the ‘very serious problem’ of under manning in the force, which they calculate to be 2,000 officers below strength.
Fliers have been handed out in five foreign languages, including English and Russian, explaining how the force is overstretched and telling visitors what to do to help protect themselves.
With fewer street patrols now being concentrated mainly on the old city centre as other districts miss out, ‘it is like undressing one saint to dress another’, she said, adapting an old Spanish proverb.
One officer, who asked to remain anonymous, said some people were already experiencing queues of up to three hours to register a crime at a police station. “Right now, we have a very big problem with numbers and workload,” the officer said. “We are informing tourists because they are suffering part of the crime in the city, especially from thefts and robberies.”
Latest figures released by the Ministry of Interior in September show Barcelona topping the country’s list of 10 big cities for the most cases of crime. It has also suffered the biggest overall increase. More than 92,000 cases were reported in the first half of the year, 20.5-per-cent up on the same period in 2017. Only two others showed an upward trend – Bilbao by 5.5 per cent and Palma de Mallorca by 4.3 per cent.