Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Barcelona Scams - The Drunken Hug

This morning's Vanguardia newspaper draws attention to a variation on a well-established scam in Barcelona. As with most of the scams I've written about, this one relies on distraction and usually the mark is someone who has been, or is out on a night out and had a few. It's basically a variation on the Barcelona Dance scam, dubbed the Ronaldinho dance. As my post describes, this is nothing new (it was the Rivaldo dance when I first got here, and in Madrid just a few years ago it was known as the Beckham dance - you can see a pattern emerging) and just uses a different approach. I've seen variations with the nightclub flyer scam last summer, and this has likely been around for a lot longer than today's news article.

Drunken Hug images from Vanguardia Website - credit Vanguardia - Barcelona Sights Blog

The article highlights different nationalities being targeted, even Spanish visiting from Madrid with one thing in common - everyone had been drinking. I hesitate to say "had too much to drink" as while this may be true in the majority of cases, after just one or two drinks you can let your inhibitions fall away and not suspect of people. I've seen first hand people been robbed and walk away thinking "those people were really friendly".

The scam usually involves two "actors" and then another couple of accomplices who receive the pass-off. There are variations - spot some stumbling tourists, pretend to be drunk and "hug" them whilst lifting their wallets, offer drugs and then congratulate them (with a hug) even if they don't want any, celebrate the victory of FC Barcelona and marvel at Messi (obviously very easy at this current period of the season!). The lifts are easy, the pass-off lightening quick, and the scamsters even offer to be searched - obviously producing nothing but an innocent smile - then offering to tell one guy where his wallet will have been thrown for 20 Euros. It makes your blood boil, right?

Facebbok I got robbed in Barcelona - Barcelona Sights

Well, it certainly does for a fair few people - at least 500 people, in fact, who've joined this Facebook page I know someone who got robbed in Barcelona, complete with photos, stories and the lot. I say good on whoever had the thought to begin the page, and I dare say after today's exposure in La Vanguardia (and last months, too), the fan pages will rocket.

So, what's my beef with just re-reporting news that's already available elsewhere? Well, as some of the cheeky comments in the article can attest, the law is a joke. Even if the police catch these thieves red-handed (extremely difficult, given the speed of the pass-off), if their loot is LESS THAN 400 EUROS, then it is not considered a crime, rather a minor fault. They will likely be taken to the station for a few hours and then later released. Straight back to "work". So whilst it perfectly acceptable for the police to fine tourists or locals for spitting, urinating or letting their dog do its business on the streets, those who rob are not even given a slap on the wrists, just a cell to rest their legs for a few hours.

Comment on today's article - Barcelona Sights Blog

For those of you who don't speak Spanish, the comment above says:

"You're the ones who need to leave. This neighbourhood is now ours, so now you have nothing to do, I laugh in the face of the police and the judges. Long Live Barcelona and it's laws. Ala uakbar"

Let me ask you, who would carry more than 400 Euros around with them on an evening (without bodyguards)? What a ridiculous law. I have also heard (although am no expert in the codigo penal de España) that many delinquents who are due to be prosecuted after some hard evidence, cannot be deported if they have a pending case, so many simply commit some smaller crimes or faults often in front of the police, so that the loop just keeps going.

Something is seriously wrong with the current situation, and whilst the mayor's office releases figures and statistics that crime rates are down in the city, this is because the poor tourists cannot be bothered to report their crimes at the never-ending queues which form in the police stations. There used to be a 902 number to report the crime from the comfort of your hotel - or hell even a loquotorio - and then collect the report with your crime number, but guess what? That was taken away for the Barcelona area a couple of years ago. Make things harder to report, and things seem rosier, right? This is not my rant at the local cops - they need to be out catching these scumbags, not taking down notes.

What do you think? any suggestions or comments, I'd be glad to hear. Please leave a comment below.


Bobteacher said...

They need to follow the policy of the New York police: ZERO TOLERANCE.
If they allow the situation to continue, tourists will think twice about going to Barcelona for their holidays.

David Brydon said...

I agree Bob. Many other cities seem to have stamped this kind of thing out, and Mayor Juliani did great things for New York. You're right - we should take a leaf out of their book.

Thanks for the comment.

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