A story in Monday’s El Periódico caught our attention, entitled “24 arrested in Barcelona after posing as policemen to rob tourists”
The individuals were involved in 80 separate incidents, where they worked in teams of three or fours and passed themselves off as police, demanding fines from visitors to the city.
Favourite areas to target were Camp Nou, the Olympic Stadium, Palau Sant Jordi, around Montjuïc fountains, Parc Güell and Ciutat Vella.
The tactic used by the gang was to disguise one of their group as a tourist to strike up a conversation with other tourists, and at that point other gang members dressed as police officers would approach and ask for their documentation. The disguised tourist would immediately produce her passport, which resulted in the victims doing the same.
When the victims handed over their wallets, the “police” thieves would steal their cash. They would then ask for credit cards to check that the identity papers were correct. Some victims were urged to enter their PIN numbers into a mobile phone and the thieves would then simulate telephone enquiries to check the data.
The task of catching the criminals was made more difficult for the police because the robbers stay in hostels and bed & breakfasts, and move location frequently.
Four of the 24 detainees, all of whom have criminal records, were previously arrested when a similar gang of Romanian thieves was caught by the police in 2009.
Later that same day (Monday), the free daily paper 20minutos reported that 23 of the 24 were already back on the street and only one had been sent to prison.