The shock message was on leaflets handed out by serving officers as part of their demand for more police to serve the city and wider region of Catalonia. The warning had been translated into seven languages including English, French and Italian. Another of the leaflets handed out to visitors offered advice about how to avoid becoming crime victims, urging tourists to be careful with their belongings and use their door key to make sure their accommodation was properly closed when they left.
The warnings were distributed as part of an ongoing campaign organised by protest group MosS.O.S,
which is backed by unions serving those working as regional Mossos d’Esquadra police officers.
The Mossos force has around 16,500 officers at present, with another 500 currently going through a police academy – nearly 2,000 short of the figure the unions say are necessary.
Officers wearing reflective yellow jackets and holding up banners started to inform tourists of their fears for their safety just after 10am, handing out around 3,000 leaflets.
Inma Viudes, MosS.O.S spokesman, described the problem of the lack of officers as “very serious.”
Figures released last month by police showed Barcelona had seen a sharp rise in theft.
The number of petty theft incidents for the first eight months of the year totalled 86,834 – a rise of 19 per cent on the previous year.
On the tube and in shops, they stood at 360 a day.
The number of thefts involving violence or intimidation also went up by 19 per cent in the same period, rising to 4,396 cases in the first eight months of this year from 3,694 cases in the same period last year.
Opposition parties blamed left-wing Barcelona mayor Ada Colau for being soft on crime.
Tourists have been affected by the rise in crime but locals have also suffered.
A survey from Barcelona City Hall presented last month revealed more than a quarter (25.6 per cent) of Barcelona residents had been the victim of one of more crimes in the past year.
The Antoni Gaudi-designed Sagrada Familia temple, a large Roman Catholic church, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The unfinished church, one of Spain’s most famous tourist sites, attracts almost three million visitors per year.