Published On: Thu, Aug 22nd, 2019

Barcelona tourism alert: Surge in violent street crime sparks travel warnings | World | News

Catalonia’s regional police force said violent street crime had soared by 30 percent since the start of the year compared to the same period in 2018. Attacks in the popular city, which attracts around 16 million visitors a year, often target tourists, with foreign officials have also falling victim to the muggers.

Four German tourists ended up in hospital after being attacked by a gang of muggers last weekend.

The Afghan ambassador to Spain was knocked to the ground by a group of thieves who took his watch, injuring his leg.

An off-duty FBI agent on holiday had his watch stolen as he walked through the city centre earlier this month.

And in June, a South Korean official died after being knocked to the ground by a moped thief who tried to snatch her handbag.

Police director Andreu Martínez said officers were working hard to halt the crime spree that had “generated a heightened perception of insecurity”.

Foreign Office travel advice to Britons travelling to the city states: “Be alert to the existence of street crime.

“Thieves tend to target money and passports so don’t keep them all in one place. Keep a copy of your passport somewhere safe.”

READ MORE: Tourism crackdown: Gang of 12 pickpockets beat up four tourists

The US consulate in Barcelona has upgraded its travel advisory and released a statement warning US citizens to be especially alert while visiting the most popular tourist areas.

A notice published on US diplomat service in Spain’s website says: “Local authorities have reported a significant increase in the number of petty theft schemes that have included acts of violence, such as aggressive thefts of jewellery, watches, and purses.

It says “authorities indicate they are seeking to address these problems” but advises US citizens to remain especially vigilant about their personal safety at a time of “increased violent crime” in the city.

Police could not pinpoint the causes behind the rise in violent crime but locals point to the several thousand underage migrants, mostly from Morocco and Algeria, who have arrived to Spain without their parents in recent years.

Crime figures show 12 percent of those minors have committed a crime that employed violence or the threat of violence since arriving to the region of Catalonia.

Albert Batlle, head of security for Barcelona’s town hall, has called for the young thugs to sent back to their families.

But regional social affairs chief Chakir el Homrani insists the crime wave is more of a social problem and warned against “dehumanising the collective of unaccompanied minors” by linking them to the surge.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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