How drugs, robberies and low cost tourism threaten Barcelona

How drugs, robberies and low cost tourism threaten Barcelona

The Raval has a barometer more effective than the officers to gauge the productivity of their pickpockets. Everything depends on the queue at the Mossos police station, on Nou de la Rambla street. “If there are 30 or 40 people waiting in the street, that day is wrong,” says a neighbor born and raised in the district of Ciutat Vella. «This year there have been huge queues throughout the block, especially in summer».

Someone must have realized the damage of the scene to the image of the city. “For months, if ten people accumulate, an agent leaves and asks you to come back the next day,” he says. The measure does not hide, in any case, a reality that neither the City Council denies at this point: Barcelona is going through a crisis of insecurity.

In the last year, crimes in the city have grown in numbers much higher than the rest of the big cities. 19% until August, especially robberies and robberies, according to data from Mossos and Guardia Urbana. To understand the seriousness of the data, in Madrid they rose only 1%, according to data from the Ministry of the Interior.

The insecurity, with Ciutat Vella as protagonist, is just one more notch of the debate about the “degradation” and loss of brightness inherited from the 1992 Olympic Games that the opposition blames the mayor, Ada Colau. The City Council, for its part, tries to charge itself with reasons to reduce the depth of the crisis and find solutions. The list that the Consistory has to face, however, is long: the top blanket, the narco-rings, the loss of prestige or the incivility due to tourist saturation are material of political warfare and neighborhood in a city facing the elections of May under high pressure.

October 29th. More than 850 police officers between Mossos and Guàrdia Urbana are the protagonists of the largest operation against narco-rings, a name that leaves no room for imagination: they are unhealthy floors where heroin is bought and consumed. Gala Pin, councilor of Ciutat Vella, closely follows the operation, which ends with 54 detainees and the closure of 26 floors. A collaborator talks to her, about two journalists.

-What do you think?

– Wanting to hug the cops.

The talk makes sense if it is remembered that Pin, like Colau, was an activist of the squat movement and his first months in office were of daily tension with the local police. An agent jokes now about his change of attitude: “And to think how we had to take it out in the evictions

The blow against the narco-piles is Colau’s greatest security achievement since his arrival in 2015. The newly adopted hard-line, however, has come after two years of neighborhood criticism. Since 2016, the old Chinatown has become accustomed to situations that they thought were forgotten, comparable to the arrival of heroin in the 1980s. Drug addicts lying on the street or in desperate search of the five euros that cost one micron. Syringes next to portals. And Quentin Tarantino’s own fights. There are several maquette fights recorded by the neighbors for the black video library in the city.

The Raval has lived all his life with drugs and pickpockets with the naturalness of the known bad. “There has always been skullduggery, but they lived here and there was a respect for the neighbors. That has disappeared by the arrival of the mafias. Everything does not matter to them says Angel Cordero, a member of the Ara Raval neighborhood platform, which admits the improvement since the operation but figures in a score of the narcophones that are still active. They have also been detected in the neighboring district of the Eixample.

The situation nullifies any threat to disguise. The commissioner of Security, Amadeu Recasens, admits the increase in insecurity in Ciutat Vella. “There has been a boom and we are looking for solutions,” he explains. However, he denies that everything responds to municipal inaction and points to several factors. The first, organizational. The procés multiplied the demonstrations in Barcelona during 2017. From 1,500 to 3,500 mobilizations in a year, which forced to divert to Mossos and Urbana, with limited staff for budgetary reasons of the Government and the Government. The result was a security vacuum that took advantage of narcos and pickpockets.

Another culprit is real estate speculation, according to the Consistory. “The neighbors are expelled, the empty flats multiply and the narcotics traffickers occupy them”. A theory in which the City Council is not alone. The neighborhood activist who criticizes them for “reacting late” coincides in pointing out the causes. “Speculation is behind,” he says.

The lack of police officers also weighs. The Urban Guard has 3,000 agents. In 1992, it had 3,400. “If the template is not expanded, it is impossible to address current crime. Eugenio Zambrano, spokesman for the C-SIF union, laments the “shock plan” of the City Council and the Department of the Interior. A strategy that is summarized in moving Ciutat Vella to agents from other parts of the city and diluting the crime by way of saturation. “Over time we’ll know if it’s effective,” admits Recasens.

The incivismo has in Barceloneta its showcase. And also a grotesque summary : the detected fecal matter of the mojitos that are offered without control on the beaches. The confirmation by the Guàrdia Urbana of that fact, not by suspicion among the citizens of Barcelona, is less revealing. As summarized by Vicenç Forner, “long ago that control was lost” in the seaside neighborhood, one of the most affected by tourism overcrowding and speculation.

Unofficial reporter of the neighborhood, his was the photograph of four naked guiris in a supermarket that went around the world and spurred protests by the situation of tolerated despendole and the epidemic of tourist flats. Then it governed Xavier Trias (CiU). There is no weekend, especially in summer, where drunken tourists do not wake up on the street or on beaches covered in cans, urinating on neighbors’ doors or whatever the mind pushes them to do. Little has changed despite the change in the government, although Forner recognizes efforts in the current team: “Colau has done good things, but he will have to do more. And some may not like their own».

How drugs, robberies and low cost tourism threaten Barcelona

The top blanket thinks it is one of them. A phenomenon that the opposition links to Colau’s “inaction”, as if one had never existed without the other. An argument that does not hold. The blankets have been in the city for more than a decade. Neither PSC nor CiU found a solution that they now demand. The number of vendors, in any case, has grown so that the parties and the outsider candidate Manuel Valls believe an effect called by the municipal policies of soft hand. The Consistory places in 700 the number of manteros. The opposition sees more than 2,000 on the streets. Every day dozens of them offer fakes in the metro of Plaza Catalunya, or on the Paseo Joan de Borbó. Only the rain or the sporadic police operations lead them to stop selling shoes, bags or football shirts. The scene contrasts with the luxury yachts moored in Port Vell, a few meters away.

From the first day, Colau renounced the police as “the only solution” and added “social” exits. Many elements play against it. The security between them. The top blanket has also left images that resemble a city without control. The last one in August, when a tourist and several vendors got in trouble. The visitor ended up injured and the Hotel Association and the Barcelona Trade Foundation exploded against a new blow to the international image of the city.

Álvaro Porro, commissioner of Solidarity Economy, does not deny “specific incidents”. However, he regrets that “only negative images are amplified” and the result of a plan that progresses, progresses, although slow is covered. For the moment, with results that do not satisfy merchants and restaurateurs, which since summer have been organized in new platforms openly hostile to Colau. The Consistory believes, however, that the figures back them up. In 2017, 957,000 counterfeits were requisitioned, 100,000 more than in 2015. More pride is shown in the 130 contracts for street vendors. “We are getting them out of the circle of counterfeiting and legalize,” he celebrates.

The image of Barcelona as a feral souk shares space in the criticism of Colau’s strategy against mass tourism. The moratorium banning the construction of hotels has angered foreign investors and has been used by the opposition to blame the mayor for the loss of “thousands of jobs”. A position that Joan Gaspart, owner of the Husa chain and president of the Turisme de Barcelona consortium, does not share. Barça pin on the lapel, refuses to criticize the mayor. «Everything is solved by changing Colau? The answer is no. If there has been a loss of tourists it has been because we were coming from exceptional years and at some point we were going to go down, “he argues. He maintains it despite the fact that some data play against the sector.

The consultancy Reputation International downgraded the city from position 8 to 15 in its annual barometer. Despite the accusations against Colau, it was not only insecurity or incivility that reduced points to the city. It was “political instability” on account of the procés, the other great battle being waged in Barcelona.