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Kovaks Street Scam Forums • View topic - The Soccer, Scooter, Tire Pinch & More Scams Explained

The Soccer, Scooter, Tire Pinch & More Scams Explained

Scammed in Barcelona? Share your stories here.

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The Soccer, Scooter, Tire Pinch & More Scams Explained

Postby KOVAKS on Wed Sep 17, 2008 5:44 pm

Contributed by David R.M.:

Hi Terry. I know I'm not the first to tell you this, but thank you very much for your website. I will strongly recommend every visitor to go through it before coming to Barcelona.

I've have not seen in your site any posting from someone who's 100% from Barcelona, so I decided to send you my impressions an try to answer some questions some of the "victims" had.

We have always had petty thieves, but lately it is becoming a real annoyance for everyone who lives and visits the city. Locals are also targetted by these people but, of course, unwarned tourists are much easier and normally their wallets are much more interesting...

I've been involved in several of this scams but luckily never was the target of any of them. Well, I say luckily, because me and my friends could easily be confused with a bunch of Rugby players (we are quite bigger than the average spaniard). We normally hang out around La Ribera (El Born), el Gotic and Las Ramblas as some of our favourite restaurants and clubs lie in such area, so we have seen a lot of the tricks described in your website. Here are some of my experiences and comments I would like to share with you:

- The "Soccer" trick: once around el carrer Princesa a couple of Moroccan boys tried it with one of my friends who happens to be a really skilled player. Of course the three of us knew what the Magrebian guy wanted was his wallet, and not giving my friend a master lesson on "dribbling". In three seconds the guy was running with my friend's footprint marked on his ass, after having been asked in advance if he knew the "Stoickhov's" trick ( for those of you who do not happen to know or to remember him, he was a famous Bulgarian player who played for FC Barcelona several years, and was really famous for being "nice" and "kind" to his opponents and referees). The other guy did not move an inch as he got the message from the look the other two of us gave him. Then we did the wisest thing you can do, disappear. My advice is never use violence, and if you use it, get out of there as nothing had happened (even if it was something as silly as what we did). These guys never go alone and they surely have some more of their colleagues wandering around. They will not come back for you but better avoid a second "encounter".

- Car opening: I've seen it happen in front of me twice. First time the two guys were too fast for us, so the driver of the car in front of us did not even realise what had happened until we told him that the guy he could see running some 50 meters from us had taken his jacket. He could not believe it !!!! I guess it was because of the shock, but he did not even thank us for trying to catch the guy.... The second time we reacted fast and were able to scare them before they could even open anyone's car door.

- Cell phones: a new "trick" I've seen a few days ago. I was with two friends in a bar in the upper part of Barcelona (close to carrer Mandri). One of them decided to go out to make a phone call as the music inside the bar was loud. It was around 19:00 hrs. A motorbike, a small scooter, with two guys suddenly appeared from nowhere and started going fast towards her. She did not even see them coming, but the guy who was not driving just hit her hand while she was speaking and the phone started flying. He just caught it in the middle of the flight and disappeared without even reducing speed. It was done in one second and in two more seconds they have disappeared up the street. The guy was really good !!! I wonder if it had something to do with the visit of the Cirque du Soleil to our town, but it was just something to be performed in a circus. It was a brand new phone so the annoyance was huge. Another guy staying at the bar just showed us an article on that day newspaper describing this new practice. My friend was just talking to her father when suddenly the call was cut, but he could hear everything. He called again and a teenager voice told him "Forget it man, do not waste your money calling this number. She has not the phone anymore...." What a nice detail !!! Well, everyone knows we Catalans are famous for not being big spenders, so I guess the guy was from here too.

- Annoying the tourist (What can we do?): one of our friends has a club at one of the streets bottom of las Ramblas. One week after opening he decided to hire a couple of guys to keep the door safe. If you keep an eye through the windows you will see every few minutes a Magrebian fellow running with a wallet or a purse in his hands. We are very disappointed to see they are constantly bugging tourists, but what can we do? We were planning to start stopping them and scare the s..t out of them. But would that really be a solution? The point is we would put in danger the integrity of our friend and his business. We are sure if we would act against them we would surely find all the club´s windows broken the following day (or something worst). Of course we have talked to the police and they have showed up a couple of times and arrested a few of them, but as Spanish laws are so tolerant with petty thievery (whenever there is no violence or weapons involved) they are back on the street a few hours later. And this takes me to the following point...

- Neighbours, Police and Spanish Laws: believe me, all honest neighbours and business owners of the tourist areas of Barcelona are really pissed off with the situation. They have even created some street patrols and warned the "bad guys" they do not want to see them around. But local authorities have stopped such practice immediately. Well, officially they will not allow anyone to take justice by their own hands, but police will not seriously bother neighbours if they decide to catch someone and kick his ass (as long as the guy is not seriously injured).

One of my relatives is a very well respected cop in downtown Barcelona. He has been working in the area for years, normally patrolling "undercover". He knows everyone dedicated to scamming people and is also known by all of them. He and his colleagues are really frustrated because they cannot do anything against petty thieves. As I told you, laws here are very tolerant when violence is not involved. They are really tough though when someone uses a knife or hurts someone as they know then the guy is going to spend more than just a few hours locked, and the effort and risk of catching him is worth it. I am not saying they are not willing to stop the situation, I am just saying that while laws do not change, there is not much them or most of the judges can do. I agree though that some more police presence in the area will reduce this type of crimes, but thieves know if they are caught the consequences will be minimal as they will be free in a few hours and violence is one of the last things cops are allowed to use. I read some time ago there are not more than a hundred people "performing" in Barcelona regularly (maybe now they are some more). Of course this population grows when tourist season arrives. The average of times being arrested is around 10 times each (and if I remember well the record was 48 times). What shall we do with them? Throw them to the see? Maybe a wise solution would be sending them on government financed vacation to a nice "camping" during tourist season as we did during the Olympics in 1992.

Just to finish I would like to include here a few sentences from a very prestigious travel guide you might find about Barcelona: "Spain's second city is now the country's hippest town. Summer gives way to periodic lapses in sanity with week-long fiesta fun. But year-round the city cooks - it's always on the biting edge of fashion, architecture, food, style, music and good times.

The buildings, many of which feature the work of an eccentric genius named Gaudí, will blow you away. The art, with significant collections by Picasso and Miró, will make you clammy all over. The people, with their exuberance, their duende, their persistent egalitarianism and clamour for a separate identity, will fascinate you.

Barcelona is one of the most dynamic and exciting cities on the western Mediterranean seaboard, ... It is a city that is inconceivable until you get there, unbelievable while you walk its streets and unforgettable after you've gone."

I'm deeply in love with my home town and I think it is one of the most wonderful cities on Earth to live. Because of my job I've been all around the World and I know what is feeling unsafe when visiting a "really" dangerous city (has anyone been to Mexico DF? , L.A? Rio? Caracas? Moscow?). Barcelona is definitely not a dangerous place. Violent crimes are very rare. And I strongly recommend everyone who has not yet visited us to come and enjoy our lovely town, its food, its people, its architecture, its LIFE!!! Petty thieves are just another part of the experience, so visitors should keep in mind the advice everyone can find in your website and they will have the time of their life. Will anyone miss it???
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