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Pickpocket theft on Barcelona's metro down by 34% since 2011 as police initiative succeeds

Xarxa, an initiative launched by Barcelona's City Council and the Catalan Government in July 2011 to combat petty theft on Barcelona's metro, has managed to reduce criminal activity by 34% in 3 years. Between June 2013 and June 2014, 17,156 robberies that took place in the underground rail network were reported by travellers. This represents a significant improvement from the 26,130 reported crimes in 2011, out of 389 million journeys that were taken on the metro that year.  This drop of criminal activity – mostly pickpocketing – has been due to the success of the combined pressure from the Catalan and Barcelonan local police forces, known as the Mossos d'Esquadra and Guàrdia Urbana respectively. Just 100 repeat offenders are responsible for the 4,417 arrests and 3,181 charges from pickpocketing on the Barcelona's metro. 18 of these criminals have been totally banned from entering the underground rail network.

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04 August 2014 08:20 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN.)- Xarxa, an initiative launched by Barcelona's City Council and the Catalan Government in July 2011 to combat petty theft on Barcelona's metro, has managed to reduce criminal activity of this kind by 34% in 3 years. Between June 2013 and June 2014, 17,156 robberies that took place in the underground rail network were reported by travellers. This represents a significant improvement from the 26,130 reported crimes in 2011. This is taking into account that around 380 million journeys are taken on Barcelona's metro every year. The Mayor of Barcelona, Xavier Trias, and the Catalan Minister for Home Affairs, Ramon Espadaler, have both emphasised the success of the combined pressure from the Catalan and Barcelonan local police forces, respectively called Mossos d'Esquadra and Guàrdia Urbana. Just 100 repeat offenders make up the 4,417 arrests and 3,181 charges from pickpocketing on the Barcelona's metro, and 18 of these criminals have been totally banned from entering the city's underground rail network. The police pressure will continue to reduce this problem even further, which tends to affect more tourists than locals. Furthermore, it is hoped this will improve the negative image many foreigners have of Barcelona as a hotspot for pickpockets, as reported by many tourist guidebooks.


In the past three years police pressure on Barcelonan pickpockets acting within the metro and the urban railway lines has reduced petty crime on these modes of transport by 34%. According to Trias and Espadaler this has been achieved through the effective coordination of the Mossos d'Esquadra (the Catalan Police force) and the Guàrdia Urbana (Barcelona's municipal police force), which launched the joint-force initiative together in July 2011, called Xarxa.

Espadaler has been quick to emphasise that the Xarxa initiative has not caused Barcelona's pickpockets to simply move from the metro to Barcelona's streets or surrounding areas. "We have a far reaching influence" commented the Catalan Minister, pointing to a report which indicates that crime has not risen in the rest of the city.

Promising statistics

The number of reported robberies in the metro has decreased by around 9,000 since July 2011, when the Xarxa initiative was first launched.  The Mossos' Group for Repeat Offenders has investigated 98 criminals who make up a very high percentage of the petty crime committed on the underground railway. In fact, these 98 criminals have accumulated 4,417 arrests and 3,181 police charges and more than seventy have received prison sentences.

Espadaler emphasised that it was thanks to the "good harmony" between the Catalan Police and the Public Prosecution Office that it has been possible to issue an order against 18 of these pickpockets to ban them from entering the metro. In these cases it was proved that these offenders were acting in an organised manner and had no interest in using the metro as a means of transport, just as a platform to steal the belongings of others.

Working towards a more secure metro

Half of the arrests were made by catching the pickpockets "red-handed", that is to say the police caught the offenders in the moment that they were committing the crime. This was mainly possible due to the undercover police officers on the metro, who surprise the thieves in action. The Xarxa operation also has a large number of uniformed agents who are a result of the request to increase the sense of security amongst travellers.

In 2011, 389 million journeys were taken on Barcelona metro, meaning the reported crimes were 6.7 in every 100,000 journeys. The Xarxa project will make using the city´s transportation even safer and improve the travellers' experience. In addition, there are hopes that the success of the initiative will help change Barcelona´s negative reputation of being a pickpocket hot-spot and give the city a more security-conscious image for the outside world.

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  • Catalan Police officers patrolling within Barcelona metro network (by O. Campuzano)

  • Catalan Police officers patrolling within Barcelona metro network (by O. Campuzano)