Police expect a summer with as much crime as before the pandemic

Rapes and violent robberies exceed 2019 cases, which police hope to counter with new recruits

2 min
A Mossos riot van at Barcelona's Olympic Port in the summer of 2019.

BarcelonaAs the year progresses, crime data is getting closer to 2019 data. That year, Barcelona City Council spoke of a "security crisis", with a record high in crime in the city. But the pandemic changed the trend. Now, over two years after the first wave of covid, Catalan police are preparing for a summer in which they expect there could be as much crime as in 2019. Some figures prove it: until May, violent robberies in the street have risen by 4% and have gone from 6,158 to 6,406. Rape and other sexual crimes are also on the rise, with higher growth percentages, despite the fact that this is attributed to the fact that more of them are are reported.

The Catalan police's summer operation

"If we take data since the beginning of this year, we are still below 2019 levels both in Catalonia and Barcelona, but we are recovering normality," admitted the head of the Catalan police, chief constable Josep Maria Estela, who explained that crime in May, the last month with definitive data, "is very similar" to before the pandemic. Despite the fact that pickpocketing has fallen by 23% and burglaries have dropped by 26% compared to 2019, he admitted that the police expect this summer to be similar to 2019, and pickpocketing, muggings, burglaries, sexual crimes and road safety will be the priorities. To counter the wave of crime, the police will rely on new recruits: they are about 500 officers more than in 2019.

Catalan Home Affairs minister Interior Joan Ignasi Elena defended the force's readiness: "We are better prepared than in 2019 in Barcelona and throughout the country". According to Elena, "the degree of concern" is the same as in the years before covid, but "the objective conditions are better" because this summer the police will have highest number of officers since 2012. "If we have more resources, we can be in more places and increase prevention," justified Estela, who said that this also gives them "more capacity to react." According to the head of the Mossos, in "coordination and cooperation" with local police, it will be possible to act "more surgically" and "have more muscle in the territory". Estela has marked tourism, nightlife, concerts, crowds of people and commercial as the areas which will have to be watched more closely.

More police on the coast

The 27 police stations on the coast will be reinforced with 238 officers, 50 more than in summer 2019, most of whom will be new recruits. A new set of recruits will be ready to join the force in August. In total, there are 516 more Catalan police officers than three years ago. Brimo riot police will also receive reinforcements along the coast with two night teams in Barcelona and the metropolitan area, which will join ARRO riot police teams. They will also be present in coastal municipalities, such as Lloret de Mar or Blanes. Estela has opted for "directing and planning" according to police intelligence and has argued that the Mossos "adapt to the new criminal modalities". He exemplified that in Barcelona a unit against theft of luxury watches has been created after police detected an increase in tourists having their watches stolen as well as a plan for multi-recidivist thieves.

As for sexual violence, until May 24% more violent sexual assaults have been reported than in 2019 –from 353 to 437– and 22% more non-violent sexual assaults, which have increased from 663 to 806. "This could be due the interest on all sides in making sure all cases are reported," said Estela, who recalled that on Monday the Catalan police presented a plan against sexual crimes in nightlife areas.