Whenever I told people I was going to be studying abroad in Barcelona I continuously got the same reaction, “be careful, they are known for their pick pocketing there.” Everyone advised me on what to do and not do in order to avoid being pick pocketed and once I got here I’ve directly seen how HUGE of an issue it in factually is. Luckily I haven’t had a firsthand experience but I go to class everyday and almost always hear a new story about someone’s phone or wallet was stolen. “Why” I kept asking myself. I feel like I never have to worry about this back in the States. For example, at the beach you can leave your stuff and go for an hour long walk without even thinking twice about your stuff—but not here! The vendors and “gypsies” are so aggressive you can tell they are simply trying to distract you in order to take your things. So if you want to swim or go for a walk on the beach here someone must stay behind to guard.
My question of “why” was finally answered today in class. My international management professor explained to us that until very recently pick pocketing was not illegal. WHAT? What do you mean not illegal we all said. He explained to us that if the pickpocketer was caught by the police (which is highly unlikely) he would most likely only get a slap on the wrist because the Spanish law said that if the stolen wallet had under 400 Euros cash it was not a crime, no matter how many other cards or valuables were in the wallet/purse. Technically it was legal in a sense, and they viewed the crime as being your own fault for not watching after your things carefully enough. Which is 100% totally insane, so now they do have some laws against it, the amount of enforcement is the only issue now. It is currently illegal no matter what amount of cash is in the wallet; however it is still unbelievably rare for police to catch the person. Especially with the economic status of Spain worsening, the numbers of cases are going back up and are becoming too much for police to even worry about, so it is as though they never made a law against it.
As I said before I have been lucky enough to not have experienced this first hand and I hope I never have to while I’m here! I just need to continue being as careful as I’ve been.