Barcelona cannot avoid the perception of insecurity

In more than 30 years of publication of the Barcelona City Council barometer, public insecurity has most often appeared as the main problem in the Catalan capital.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
25 May 2023 Thursday 22:58
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Barcelona cannot avoid the perception of insecurity

In more than 30 years of publication of the Barcelona City Council barometer, public insecurity has most often appeared as the main problem in the Catalan capital. Only in the worst moments of the economic crises have unemployment, working conditions and the domestic economy come to the fore in that black list of Barcelona residents' concerns. The latest municipal survey maintains fidelity to the norm: citizen insecurity, an aspect that is based as much or more on subjective perceptions than on statistics, was mentioned at the end of last year as the number one problem by a 24 .8% of those interviewed.

In this sense, it is not surprising that security policies occupy a large space in the electoral programs and speeches of the candidates. Formations that some time ago showed archaic reluctance to address this matter, and that left it in the hands of the law and order parties, have felt the need to stop running away from study.

Is Barcelona an unsafe city? It is necessary to start from the situation before the pandemic. In 2019, criminal activity in Barcelona broke records: nearly 200,000 conventional crimes (not including those related to cybercrime). Mayor Ada Colau is right when she insists that in 2022 the number of crimes in Barcelona was 20% lower than in 2019. Indeed, if you compare these two years, it was the large Spanish city that recorded a further decline big But it is also true, and this is a fact that the municipal officials try to hide, that it is currently experiencing the most significant rise in crime, 30% in 2022 compared to the previous year.

These high crime figures are fueled above all by the large number of thefts, a circumstance closely linked to the city's status as a first-rate tourist destination. In the same way, and this is not exclusive to Barcelona, ​​the rise of phenomena such as drug flats, marijuana trafficking, occupations or fights with weapons and firearms magnify the perception of insecurity, to which they also contribute aspects not directly related to the crime, such as incivility and the massive, and often inappropriate, use of a very, very contested public space.

Parties such as the PP, Ciutadans, Valents and Vox these days are fighting for the title of champions of zero tolerance against criminals (and the uncivil). Meanwhile, the four candidates with the most options to govern the city have put more or less emphasis on explaining their recipes against insecurity. All, without exception, advocate for an improvement in the coordination between the Mossos and the Urban Guard, a tacit recognition that the current model can be perfected; increase the number of local police officers, especially in the night shift; reinforce the figure of the neighborhood policeman (an urban legend on everyone's lips but which no one has yet put into practice) and, for the first time, a certain metropolitan look is imposed, at least on paper, even with the possibility of pool police services between several municipalities.

That civility and safety are two concepts that are interrelated is highlighted by the will of several formations to modify the coexistence in public space ordinance in force since 2005. ERC wants to do this in order to introduce more alternative measures to the financial penalty (one of the eternal problems of the regulations is the great difficulty of obtaining the payment of the fines). Trias per Barcelona also proposes this reform, with a thorough review of the sanctioning regime, while the PSC undertakes to draw up a "new ordinance" to include aspects linked to mobility and cleanliness that were left out at the time of the rule and that right now are scattered in a very confusing way in other municipal ordinances.

The commons place almost all their trust in mediation, much more than in punishment, and the PSC, which in this mandate has led the area of ​​Prevention and Security, proclaims that "we understand order as a value, a priority and a necessary condition to guarantee everyone's safety". The Socialists point towards a new attempt to complete the development of the Municipal Charter and have a fast justice system, an issue that ERC expresses in other terms when it proposes to create 10 proximity courts, one per district, halfway between the justice of the peace and the judicial career and based on the practice of mediation between conflicting parties.

D'Esquerra's proposal for the "mayor at night" with an inspection team sized for the night time (from 10pm to 6am) is also based on this, while Xavier Trias undertakes to study the creation of a body auxiliary of the Urban Guard. Junts's candidate proclaims that "the criminal act and the uncivil act will not go unpunished", describes security as "first-rate social policies" and marks some ratios of police and Urbana templates (in both cases 2, 5 agents per 1,000 inhabitants).