Over the last few months we've received a number of reports of car crime sent in by site visitors who had visited Barcelona either with their own cars or after hiring a car.
Our aim with this article is to raise your awareness of some of the crimes that are undertaken by unscrupulous individuals on tourists when driving their cars in and around the city centre.
We are conscious that it is all too easy for an article like this, that is intended to be informative and raise awareness, could end up making visitors anxious. We are hoping that you will read this article and take from it only the value of awareness that it will give you and not any form of anxiousness that would in most events be unfounded.
Please bear in mind that many thousands of tourists drive a car in the city centre every year without any problems.
"Why doesn't your site warn people of the risk of thieves targeting cars in Barcelona? If there had been a mention of this frequent activity (4/5 reports each day at one police station alone) then we would have taken precautionary measures.
They slash visitor's car tyres whilst they are queuing at traffic lights and then wait for the tyre to go flat.
Then a gang of four or five men steal from the car whilst the driver is trying to change the tyres.
The prevalence of pick pocketing is well known in Barcelona and most sensible visitors take reasonable precautions but there is no mention anywhere on the web of the car thieves"
Thanks Lesley, hopefully this new page will do something to help reduce car crime in Barcelona. Here are some reports from other site visitors when they visited the city with their cars:
"Like so many, my wife and I have had an excellent trip to Barcelona. Enjoying the sights and restaurants. Remaining ever so aware of the threat from pickpockets we toured the city without bags etc on display and avoided the experience of street crime. That is until we left Barcelona in a hire car.
Our route out of Barcelona was via the 'Diagonal' heading toward the A7 motorway. As we pulled away from the last set of traffic lights before joining the A7 I realized that one of the rear tyres had a puncture.
For safety I pulled over on a slip road leading off the motorway so that I could contact the hire company and change the wheel. As usual the spare tyre was located inside the boot requiring that our luggage had to be taken out of the boot.
For security I placed the hand sized luggage inside the car and the suitcases safely to the side of the car. As I was lifting the spare tyre out of the boot a motorcyclist approach the rear of the car and offered help as he said he was a mechanic.
I refused his help but he probably distracted me and my wife for about 15 or 20 seconds before he rode off.
When I had changed the wheel I found that a bag had been taken from the car and a mobile phone. On reporting this to the local police I find that I was the victim of a deliberate puncturing of the tyre, which is usually done by a motorcyclist when the car is stopped at traffic lights. Of course by pulling in at the first safe place I set myself up for the scam which clearly involved a 2nd person in hiding near where I would stop.
Having been so careful I felt such a fool for falling for this scam, but I was told by the police it happens several times each day. Several lessons learnt from this experience, but most importantly if leaving Barcelona by car do not have maps on display inside the car (the only way I could have been recognized as a tourist) and keep the car locked even when you are with the car"
I then asked Mr Sanderson if there was anything he might be able to recommend to visitors to Barcelona with their car if they experienced a similar event. And this was Mr Sanderson's response:
" It strikes me that motor cyclists are cruising the Avenue Diagonal looking for easy targets. The only thing I can think of that may have gave some indication to passing motor cyclists that we were tourists was the fact that my wife had a map on her lap. Possibly this is what set us out from the rest of the motorist crowd. The car was not an obvious hire car - there were no stickers etc
I wondered whether I could have continued to drive the car in a more built up area where more people would have been around. The tyre was flat and burning and I suppose I was thinking about the damage to the vehicle. With hindsight I think I could have continued to drive regardless of the damage this might have caused to the car
The main lessons for me were
1) don't have anything visible on the inside of the car, not even a map;
2) if you have to stop to change a wheel - make sure you lock the car doors including the boot.
3) if approached by a motor cyclist be vigilant - don't move toward the person. If practical get back in the car and lock the doors until the person has left.
When you mull this sort of event over, we were glad that it was no worse.
The tyre had clearly been punctured by a sharp implement - what type of implement I don't know but it could well have been used as a weapon against us. Scary thoughts but who knows? Personal safety seems to be the important thing, loosing a few belongings and a some cash is a minor inconvenience in comparison.
Hope this helps others in some small way to remain safe in what is a wonderful city"
Thank you Mr Sanderson for such a detailed and insightful report. John, (Editor of BTG)
Imposter police in Barcelona
"On our last day of visiting Barcelona, my friend and I were walking from our hotel to the train station [a 15 minute walk], while pulling our luggage, to catch a train to Nice. As we were walking, a car with three men pulled up to us and yelled from an open window for us to stop and to come over to the car, we kept walking, then one man held a badge out the window and referred to himself as police, knowing we had done nothing wrong we kept walking.
These men were not in uniform or in a police car, however they pulled over to the curb, around parked cars, at least three times trying to intimidate us to stop and go over the car, this happened during the siesta time of day so the store-fronts we passed were all closed and no one else was on the street.
Thankfully we came upon a busy intersection and once we crossed it we didn't see them again.
The fact that my friend and I are both athletic males, me being 6ft tall didn't seem to bother them."
"We just returned from Barcelona and were robbed by men on scooters who stab your right rear tire and then follow you.
The first time (coming into town) they got my purse because I was dumb enough to go to the rear of the car to talk to a man on a scooter who was telling us where the garage was located. As we are talking a second one grabs my purse and runs off to hop on a scooter driven by another man.
Then on our way out of town as we were stopped by a light to enter the speedway, our tyre was again stabbed. We drove all the way to Batalona to find a garage with scooters following us. The tyre was shredded and thank goodness we spoke enough Spanish.
We have since learned that this is a common problem. Lesson learned. Don't stop until you find a police station? Do you have any other suggestions?
I truly love Barcelona and want to return but I think I lost about 5 years of my life. Just knowing they are watching, you feel vulnerable.
My recommendation is don't drive in Barcelona unless you absolutely have to. Unfortunately, we had to."
My family was the victim of another form of car crime in Barcelona in May 2011. We were driving on the highway AP 7 just before the tolls for the C33 highway leading to Barcelona when a car pulled up close to our car on the driver's side. We heard a loud noise and the people in this car pointed to the wheel on the passenger side of our car as if there was a problem with the tire.( In retrospect, they probably threw a good size rock against the car). When we pulled over to the side of the road and my husband got out to check the tire two men ran over to the car pulled the doors open and stole my handbag which was on the seat next to me in the back of the car. The handbag had our passports, some cash, a credit card and a digital camera. The only reason the passports were in there was because I had thought we would have to show them when we crossed the border from France. This all happened very fast. They were able to speed away before we could catch up with them, especially since we were stopped by the toll booth. This was not an isolated incident since a woman in France told me the exact same thing happened to her on this highway.
When we reported the theft to the police in Barcelona we sat around with 25 + other people who had been pick pocketed or robbed. We were told by the police that they sometimes have more than 100 incidents of theft a day in Barcelona reported at their police station in Las Ramblas. Fortunately, the handbag minus the money and camera were found tossed on a train platform in the suburbs. I had the reservation for our hotel in the handbag so someone was able to contact us to retrieve the bag. I never saw any police on the highway driving to Barcelona.
Barcelona has a first rate public transport system and unless you have special needs a car is not really necessary.
If you must drive then try not attract attention that you are a visiting tourist. Tourists make good targets because they will often have valuable belongings conveniently packed up in bags along with cameras and holiday money etc.
You can help avoid attracting attention by making sure all your valuables are locked away safely out of sight. Keep the windows rolled up and maps out of sight. Don't leave valuables like purses, cameras, laptops and handbags on car seats where they are clearly in view to another passing motorist.
Take a mobile phone with you should you need to make an emergency call.