Barcelona prepares for a summer with more robberies and on alert against illegal street parties
Local police says there are only about twenty active street sellers in the city
BarcelonaViruses permitting, after two years of the pandemic, this summer will again resemble 2019, the last before covid struck. Since Easter, the city has been full of tourists and even more are expected to come. Their increased presence is linked to a growth in crime, often with foreign visitors as recurring victims. Thefts and robberies, in fact, are already above 2020 numbers – when crimes bottomed out – and last year, but still below 2019, when they reached an all-time high and there was talk of a "security crisis" in the city. With this data, the Guardia Urbana and also the Mossos are preparing for a summer that will bring back some old problems, although not all: the presence of street sellers in Barcelona is at a minimum, according to data from the City Council.
In summer 2019, after the arrival of Albert Batlle as deputy mayor for Security, a large police deployment was announced to occupy the public space of Barceloneta where street vendors used to set up their stalls. At the end of the summer the consistory assured that the number of street vendors had reduced from 777 to 140. Now, according to municipal sources, this figure has dropped even more because it is estimated that there are about twenty street vendors active in the city centre who can be seen when there is no police. On Wednesday afternoon there were four street vendors on the Rambla. The City Council explains that, as a result of the pandemic, some street sellers have moved to towns on the Catalan coast and others have started collecting scrap metal or picking fruit.
This reduction in street sellers is attributed to the fact that the message has been sent out that Barcelona will not allow this activity, after a time when this guideline was not so clear-cut. But, beyond street sellers, last summer brought the surprise of mass illegal parties, especially during the Mercè festivities. There is uncertainty as to whether the images will be repeated, although the Guardia Urbana is confident that the reopening of nightclubs – last summer they were closed – will keep alcohol consumption in the street under control. On the other hand, one of the priorities ill be avoiding muggings in areas with a lot of nightlife.
The Guardia Urbana has reinforced its emergency unit, the UREP – which replaced the former riot unit – which now consists of 179 officers, 40 more than in 2019. The unit is focused on weekend nights as it is when most crime is committed. These consist mainly of thefts (there is hope the modification approved by Parliament to further punish multi-recidivism will help curb them), which coexist with muggings, focused on luxury watches. The Guardia Urbana will present its summer operation next week. It will be deployed on the beaches of Barcelona to prevent crime and maintain the peace. A different conflict that began during the pandemic and which continues is complaints from neighbours about noise in homes, bars and illegal parties.
Bicycle cabs, a target
Last summer the Guardia Urbana launched an offensive against bicycle cabs with controls and fines against the drivers of the vehicles that transport tourists. In the coming months they will continue to be a target and the municipal group of the PSC will make a proposition to ask the Generalitat to prohibit rickshaw taxis. According to the text, their activity "generates a problem in the city in terms of circulation and occupation of public space that endangers the safety of passengers, drivers and pedestrians as a whole". It explains that the Catalan Government "has repeatedly refused to regulate" these vehicles despite requests from the City Council, which "has no powers" to regulate them.
As for graffiti, after some historic buildings in Barcelona were attacked in the past couple of weeks, sources from the Guardia Urbana admit an increase in graffiti, but do not attribute it to an organised group. The Council has committed to creating surveillance operations to protect the city's heritage from from vandalism, following a demand from opposition groups for more forcefulness in the prosecution of acts of vandalism. It is a device to be defined with the support of the cleaning teams. Graffiti affected the facade and the modernist shop window of Queviures Múrria, the basilica of El Pi or the old Hospital de la Santa Creu.