Rebeca Carranco – Barcelona 28 AUG 2019 – 10:41 BST
The Catalan regional law enforcement agency, the Mossos d’Esquadra, and the Spanish National Police, have teamed up to fight crime in Barcelona, where officials have sounded the alarm about rising rates of street delinquency.
Since April, officers from both agencies have been patrolling the Catalan capital together to crack down on theft, drug dens, pickpockets, and criminal activity along the seafront and in the neighborhood of La Mina, in Sant Adrià de Besòs.
Crime in Barcelona rose 17% in 2018 and 9% in the first half of 2019
The National Police is checking the immigration status of arrested suspects – it has exclusive powers over this – and activating deportation procedures for repeat offenders.
Crime in Barcelona rose 17% in 2018 and 9% in the first half of 2019, statistics show. There has also been a 30% increase in violent theft. In May, the Catalan police created a dedicated team to monitor groups of youths who are blamed for many of the violent crimes committed in downtown Barcelona.
On August 21, the US Embassy in Spain issued a security alert warning citizens about “an increase in violent crime in the city of Barcelona in the summer of 2019, specifically in popular tourist areas.”
The latest example of coordinated police work took place on Tuesday, when Mossos and National Police officers acted against pickpockets on the subway network.
The Mossos are already familiar with around a hundred individuals who have been arrested multiple times for stealing from commuters. But this time, after the arrests, the National Police checked the suspects’ legal status in Spain.
Officers identified 70 people, 30 of whom were taken to the police station in La Verneda. After checking their documents, the National Police held 22 individuals for violating immigration laws, and those with a long criminal record will face deportation.
The Mossos are familiar with around a hundred individuals who have been arrested multiple times for stealing from commuters
A Mossos official in charge of security on the public transit system said that the goal of the joint police work was to “catch recidivists in the act of stealing and check their legal status.”
A total of 221 pickpockets have restraining orders banning them from going on the subway. Between 2016 and 2019, the Mossos provided evidence on 2,490 occasions to secure this type of legal action against repeat offenders.
Both law enforcement agencies are planning to repeat Tuesday’s operation periodically, although they did not specify how often that would be. The National Police insisted that they are not conducting indiscriminate checks on foreigners but rather “selective identification of criminals.”
Although both police forces cooperate frequently on a number of issues, these crime-busting operations in Barcelona are jointly designed. This is partly due to the fact that in November 2018, the Mossos were admitted into the Intelligence Center Against Terrorism and Organized Crime (CITCO), a body that coordinates ongoing investigations by each law enforcement agency in Spain.
Relations between the Mossos and the National Police have also improved with new appointments to top positions in both agencies following the unauthorized independence referendum of October 1, 2017 in Catalonia. Officials noted that these changes have helped repair a relationship that had deteriorated during the secession attempt by Catalan separatists.
English version by Susana Urra.