Culture-Enriching Junkies Steal to Feed Their Habit

Culture-enrichers in the West are often drug-dealers, but the one featured in this story from Barcelona is an addict who steals to feed his habit.

Many thanks to Pampasnasturtium for translating this article from the Catalan news site El Nacional:

Stealing to take drugs in downtown Barcelona: Six t-shirts for five euros worth of heroin

by Guillem RS
March 9, 2019

Stealing to take drugs. There’s nothing else. The purpose for the booty of some of the thieves that operate in downtown Barcelona, which has turned into the ground zero of insecurity in the capital of Catalonia, is to exchange it for drugs in the ‘narco-flats’ of the Raval neighborhood*. It depends solely on the money.

A man known to the town’s police force [‘Guardia Urbana’] suddenly appears on the Rambla promenade. Two agents in civilian attire of the Urban Criminality Group [GDU: ‘Grupo de Delincuencia Urbana’] start following him. He’s a thief who usually operates in shops but right now it is nighttime, no shops remain open, and the thief still walks around. He’s changed targets: today he is onto handbags.

The two police agents follow him. He goes up and down the promenade, up and down, crossing from one sidewalk to the other, almost not looking to see whether cars come or go. He enters the NBA Cafe Barcelona —the former, now restored, ‘Ático’ restaurant — and comes out again. Walks a bit and goes back in again. Strolls, comes across a friend of his, they enter the restaurant and come out of it quickly. Under his arm the man known to the police carries six red t-shirts he has stolen.

The two policemen, who had been following him all along, stop him and retrieve the t-shirts and file a report on the two of them for theft. After being identified, and with no t-shirts, they go back via the route they came. It’s not the first time, nor will it be the last time, they will get caught. They need to steal to go to the narco-flat to buy drugs.

That’s the way he explains it himself to He’s 37 years old, came from Morocco many years ago, and spent eleven of those jailed in Brians 2 prison. He stole and also resold drugs to tourists and he got caught. It’s less than six months since he’s been out on the streets, and he’s already been arrested more than a half-dozen times.

Six t-shirts, five euros worth of heroin

Out of the six t-shirts he’s stolen, he explains that he expects to obtain some five euros worth of heroin at the narco-flat. Most of them take stuff, stolen or not, in exchange for drugs. But if one of the places you take the goods to is not interested in them, there’s no problem, there are more narco-flats that work as barter-markets.

He’ll have to steal something again; he doesn’t dissemble. He starts to notice signs of withdrawal kicking in, and he’ll need drugs soon. To pay for it he’ll have to steal and have better luck than this time, when the town police caught him.

Full board: drugs, food, bed and a prostitute

The day before he had better luck. Without too much risk he was able to get hold of a woman’s handbag, and inside of it there were 500 euros. Cash in hand, he went to one of the narco-flats, managed by a Dominican citizen.

He went in before 8pm and did not come out until almost 24 hours after that. With the 500 euros he had enough to buy grams of cocaine for hours, but also paid 20 euros to spend the night in one of the rooms in the flat. He bought food and he locked himself up in the room with a prostitute.

Back on the streets

But, maybe like a dream, the 500 euros in the handbag were gone and now it’s time to be back on the streets fighting again for booty that will quickly be exchanged for drugs.


*   An area historically infamous for its nightlife and cabarets, as well as prostitution and crime, El Raval has changed significantly in recent years and due to its central location has become a minor attraction of Barcelona. It currently has a very diverse immigrant community (47.4% of its population was born abroad, ranging from all South America, Pakistanis and Filipinos, to a more recent Eastern European community, especially from Romania). It is home to many bars, restaurants, and night spots.’