Virtual citizen patrol in Free Trade Zone

The feeling of insecurity, caused by several robberies with violence reported months ago, has pushed residents of the La Marina neighborhoods to create WhatsApp and Telegram groups. A reader explains how it works in a letter sent to the Entre Todos section. The Mossos clarify the seriousness of the situation in the neighborhood and remind that citizens can collaborate and notify the police, but not act against alleged criminals

Two years ago it was easy to meet in the subsoil of the city with Guardian Angels Barcelona, a uniformed citizen patrol whose main objective was to find someone else’s friends. His ‘modus operandi’, according to police sources, bordered the criminal offense and above all, it caused a greater feeling of insecurity among the passengers.

Those hunters in paramilitary clothes and manners are no longer part of the fauna of the Catalan capital’s metro, mainly because of the strict police marking. On the other hand, another similar phenomenon is maintained, the so-called virtual citizen patrols, groups of citizens organized through social networks and messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Telegram. One of these groups, at the neighborhood level, is Free Zone Alarm and the reader Lourdes Tasies, 19, defends its usefulness in a letter: “The operation they have seems exquisite, due to the great will of collaborate for a better neighborhood without violence & rdquor ;, assures this young university student.

“In the neighborhood La Marina de Port, in Zona Franca, Neighbors have been forced to watch each other due to an increase in altercations & rdquor ;, defends the reader, who uses the newspaper library to justify this cyberactivism against crime. Certainly, at the end of 2020 there were two robberies with violence with elderly women as victims. One was beaten viciously and the second was strangled.

These two events, which occurred in September and November 2020, initially led to mobilizations that came to cut off the Free Zone promenade, demanding more police surveillance, and shortly after to the more or less spontaneous creation of virtual groups in which crime alerts and images of supposedly suspicious people are mainly shared. The reader gives an example: “The moment someone observes a problem, they take a photo of the place and the people closest to the site try to solve the problem, never using violence, While the police are called & rdquor ;, explains the reader, who assures that between the crime and the arrival of the police, several minutes may pass. And they try to cover that space. “Sometimes, and in the face of events such as theft, for example, neighbors remain together with the affected person, giving them support,” he adds.

The mere existence of this virtual group implies a claim or criticism of the system, also a certain feeling of helplessness. “It saddens me to see where we find ourselves in Barcelona. We have had to resort to this because robberies, rapes, squats, among other crimes, are increasing & rdquor ;, says Tasies, who lists what he considers black spots in the neighborhood. They are the output of the Foneria metro stop, the Marina de Sants square and the Ferrocarrils Catalans street. In this last route there was a hitch more than two months ago, the last criminal act of which they have evidence.

A pull

The events took place on September 15 when the owner of the pharmacy located at number 69 of this street next to the foot of the Montjuïc mountain. “It was eight thirty, I lowered the blind, I went to the containers to throw a box on the cardboard and I noticed a presence. They were two guys who were on a motorcycle and they took my bag & rdquor ;, recalls the owner, Belkis Martinez, who quickly canceled their cards and filed a complaint. “In the minutes it took for the bank to block my cards,” he continues, “they bought at three different establishments. They bought pizzas, pastries and fruits. About 100 euros & rdquor ;.

Mossos d’Esquadra reinforced its presence in the area after the aforementioned incidents and has subsequently been modulating it. “We must bear in mind that sensation is one thing and reality is another. Two or three criminal acts in a row or very violent can be multiplied by word of mouth and trigger that feeling of insecurity & rdquor ;, police sources explain to this newspaper.

The same sources recall that police tasks are the exclusive competence of the agents, although “citizen collaboration & rdquor; it is always well received. In this sense, they underline, it is essential that the people included in these Telegram or WhatsApp groups always have a clear police reference and call as soon as you are aware of a criminal act. “Security is not the responsibility of the citizenry. Instead of confronting a thief or trying to retain him, for example, it is much more important keep calm and pay attention to details to give a good description to the police & rdquor ;, they add.

Virtual citizen patrols is, like it more or less, a sign of the times. “What used to be discussed in a store, which was the nerve center of life in the neighborhood, has now been transferred to the screens. The important thing is not to put yourself at risk and call the police & rdquor ;, they add from Mossos.

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