Barcelona (ACN).- For the last three years, the estimated 150 thieves who operate on Barcelona's metro have been met by the lone efforts of Eliana Guerrero, a native Colombian who has made it her mission to warn the city against the dangers of pick pockets. Armed only with a whistle and a warning poster in various languages, she has been patrolling beneath the city determined to end what she calls a pandemic of pick pocketing. In an interview with CAN she explains that a lack of information has left many tourists unaware of the dangers. Although it is generally acknowledged that Barcelona is a safe holiday destination, the city has in recent years gained a bad reputation for petty crime, with a complaint being made to the police every thirty minutes.
Three years ago Eliana Guerrero was on the metro when she witnessed a thief stealing and destroying the insulin of a diabetic passenger, ever since then she has committed her spare time to combating petty crime on the metro. Although she only speaks Spanish, she has created posters and pamphlets, in no less than seven languages from English to Japanese which she says "work well" in her personal campaign. Pick pockets, who often operate in organised networks- distracting and stealing in groups, were the cause of 22, 000 complaints being made in 2010, almost all of them from tourists. Confronting such groups is no easy task, and Eliana admits that her work is dangerous. But she is carried by her conviction that new comers to Barcelona do not have the information that they need. Officials from law enforcement and from the tourist office "tell nobody, nobody" she stresses, pointing to the lack of information for tourists at tourist booths and the lack of a police presence on the metro itself. The high rate of tourist related crime is no coincidence as the majority of tourists who have been subjected to a robbery cannot attend a trial because they have already returned home. In this way the minority of thieves who are caught are escaping harsher penalties. However, hope may be just around the corner for metro passengers, following the insistence by Xavier Trias, mayor of Barcelona, that security, particularly on the metro, would be improved during his term in office. As a first step the City Police announced last week that this summer, officers of the Guardia Urbana will patrol the metro in the Catalan capital in an effort to assist the Autonomous police and reduce the rate of crime. Eliana however doesn’t seem convinced and is already planning a hunger strike for September in protest of the blatant underground crime. Although virtually all tourists' guides stress the beauty and relative safety of Barcelona, the risk of robbery has not gone unnoticed internationally. Virtualtourist.com has 125 forums discussing the problem, the Lonelyplanet.com warns that "it cannot be stressed enough that newcomers to Barcelona much be on their guard" and the facebook group 'I know someone who got robbed in Barcelona' has over 3,000 members. This international attention culminated in 2009, when Tripadvisor.com named Barcelona as the pickpocket capital of the world based on comments by its users and editors. Sadly, most of this information comes too late as Eliana well knows, "a lot of people come to Barcelona and they don’t know that they can be robbed" she says. The task of the city now is to loose its reputation for crime or risk loosing the 80,000 tourists a day who come to Barcelona in the summer season.