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By Nancy Todd
My cell phone was stolen out of my purse on a bus.
A woman had her hand in my purse on the metro escalator and I screamed at her to “Fuck off.”
Two men on a motorcycle rode by tourists in front of the Hotel Arts and grabbed a woman’s bag with passports, credit cards, etc.
Thieves use surgical scissors to cut bags/cameras off of people’s shoulders. Every friend I know is Spain has been robbed. Every friend they know has been robbed.
Pickpockets are aggressive, fast, and excellent at what they do. Adios, euros.
So where are the cops? Standing around. Looking good. Talking about their next volleyball game on the beach and when they last got laid. Don’t think you will fit in and not look like a tourist. We’ve lived here since 2005 and The Scoopettes still look like tourists. And we don’t wear cutoffs with our butts hanging out.
In Barcelona, there are 400 thefts reported a day and hundreds that go unreported. Three kids, about 8 years old, came up to me at 3:00 pm in the afternoon on Plaça Jaume I in front of the government buildings. One held a clipboard in front of my face. Two others stared pawing me. I screamed at them to, “Get the fuck away from me.”
Even though Regina and I consider ourselves seasoned travelers, we have been robbed. We know you know a lot of the rules. Here are reminders to stay safe. These reminders have been around for years, and theft keeps happening all the time. Intuition is your best guide.
l. Wear backpacks in front of you. Robbers slice through them/open zippers. No, safety pinning your zipper pulls doesn’t work.
2. Men: carry wallets, cameras in your front pants pockets. A rubber band around your wallet is added security as it is very difficult to get it out of your pocket.
3. Keep valuables in a hidden, and I mean hidden, money belt, or cash in your shoes or bra.
4. When walking at night, stay on the main busy streets. Take a taxi when needed.
5. Ask hotel security to walk you to a main street when leaving your hotel during quiet hours. A quaint side street is great pickings for thieves. Have a taxi pick you up at the hotel door.
6. Only take the cash you need for the night. Leave valuables in a hotel safe.
7. Scan passport, important papers, and credit cards. Email to yourself in case you need copies.
8. Women, forget those big bags. Use a small one under your coat with bare essentials like lipstick. Those big, fashionable, shoulder bags are a target. Put your bag in front of you, not on side or back. Wear bags diagonally across your chest.
9. You may see The Scoopettes with a 40-pound suitcase on their laps riding the airport bus in Barcelona. Yes, suitcase theft is common. Tourists who put their suitcases down for a second to look at a map can be robbed.
10. In restaurants, purses should never be hanging on your chair or on the floor; always keep it on your lap.
11. On the beach, never leave valuables while you swim. Someone comes up to ask you for a light? Forget it. Their partner is grabbing your purse. Purse between your legs or lie on it. Never just put it to the side of you.
12. Old tricks still work. A liquid is poured on you which is supposedly bird shit. People come to help you. No, they are going to rob you. Avoid women with a single carnation to sell or gold wedding band to give you to hold.
13. Don’t use ATM machines on a quiet street or at night. You will be followed. You will be robbed. If someone comes up to talk with you while you are using an ATM, don’t talk, as their slime-bag cohort will grab your money as it comes out of the machine.
Don’t be scared when traveling in Spain, but do be aware, especially in Madrid and Barcelona.