Barcelona residents cite lack of security as their biggest concern

Five months ahead of elections, Mayor Ada Colau is accused of not doing enough against crime and drugs

Barcelona residents marching against Mayor Ada Colau.
Barcelona residents marching against Mayor Ada Colau.Alfonso L. Congostrina

With just five months to go before Barcelona residents vote in local elections, city security is fast becoming an intractable problem for Mayor Ada Colau.

A new biannual report drafted by city officials underscores that the feeling of insecurity is currently viewed by many locals as the most serious problem, ahead of affordable housing or the Catalan independence issue.

In the first half of 2018, there was an average of 289 petty thefts a day, 30 violent robberies and 16 burglaries

When Colau reached power in June 2015 with her leftist coalition Bcomú, security ranked fifth on the list of citizen concerns, and two years later it had dropped to seventh place.

The report, based on 800 interviews conducted between November 27 and December 5, shows that 21% of respondents are chiefly worried about security. When Colau became mayor, this percentage was 3.4%.

In the first half of 2018, there was an average of 289 petty thefts a day, 30 violent robberies and 16 burglaries.

Last summer, neighborhood associations and opposition parties demanded action against the drug dens known as “narcopisos” as well as against widespread illegal street selling.

In response, Colau asked regional authorities for more officers from the Catalan police force Mossos d’Esquadra, but her requests were repeatedly refused by the Catalan interior affairs chief, Miquel Buch.

A local resident shows a picture of drug needles found in the area.
A local resident shows a picture of drug needles found in the area.Albert Garcia

Xavier Trias, head of the Democratic Party of Catalonia (PdeCAT) in the city council, calls this latest report “devastating.”

“It is the result of the failure of Mayor Colau’s security and prevention policies,” he said, citing ideological bias and lack of support for the local police force as some of the reasons for the current state of affairs.

Jaume Collboni, leader of the Socialist Party in Barcelona, said that the report heralds a time of political change. “A majority of citizens feel that with Colau, Barcelona is in worse shape. This is the image of a government that is worn out and beating a retreat, of a mayor who is more concerned about the separatists’ problems than about the city’s problems.”

Colau released €12 million in funds to pay for extra hours by the local police force, but by then the situation was already out of hand. Residents and visitors shared a series of viral videos showing street fights and drug addicts sleeping in parks in the heart of the city.

Deputy Mayor Gerardo Pisarello said the are different reasons for these figures, but noted that the opposition is seeking to exaggerate the problem for electoral purposes. “It’s a matter of perception. For weeks now, [mayoral candidate] Manuel Valls and the Popular Party have been trying to generate a situation of alarm and insecurity that does not match reality.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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