Many of you are going to Poptronik festival in Sitges this weekend. Having lost two iPhones and one camera in Sitges over the last four summers I want to quickly warn you about the escalating crime there and offer you these tips. It used to just be party bimbos like me who got jacked, but now it’s everyone and anyone:
How do thieves in Sitges operate?
I absolutely love Sitges, it's an incredible little place - BUT - it has always been a bit shifty. Of course this comes hand-in-hand with a liberal counter-culture and everything that makes the resort such spectacular fun for a gay holiday. Traditionally theft would happen in dark rooms (notoriously the first floor of XXL bar) and on the beach at night. A classic Sitges scenario is for an exotic boy to pose against the beach wall at night poking his bum out while his comrade scoops the pockets of the men who de-bag themselves to enjoy said exotic bum.
Things have gone up a level though and even you bed-before-midnight types are at risk. I was horrified when I met two lovely guys in Sitges last week who worked for Harvey Nichols and were robbed before my eyes without any of us noticing. We were walking back to our hotels when a stranger asked us is we knew the way to the something-something bar. We said we hadn't heard of it, sorry. One minute later both lads realised their iPhones had vanished. We knew for sure the iPhones were there two minutes prior when one of the boys checked Google maps.
Only a few of the bars have doormen and their chief concern is controlling drug abuse, they don't care so much about your boyfriend's iPhone which has photos of your new twin nieces and yada yada yada - so you need to look after yourselves. The best policy is to leave it all in the hotel room, take nothing out with you but a pair of cute swimmers and some mascara, and have a fun night.
Why the sudden increase in theft?
The recession has hit Spain really bad. Desperation and poverty has led to an escalation in crime but Sitges specifically has become a popular target resort for gangs. Because of its swank bars and gorgeous villas thieves can count on Sitges to provide them with a steady flow of affluent gay couples who are kitted out with iPhones, top-end cameras and Euro-stuffed wallets. What's more the police presence can be low some nights in Sitges, possibly turning a blind eye due to the town being a massive gay fest, but also due to mainstream Spanish resorts further along the coast requiring a stronger police presence (lads-on-tour violence, stag weekends, missing kids, local teenagers raving on the roof of Seats etc.) I don't want to scare you. Like I said, Sitges is beautiful and a favourite among Spain's elite. These "gangs" aren't like Bugsy Malone, they're almost unnoticeable drifts of ghostlike figures, they can smell iPhones but that is all.
How can I pick out a pickpocket?
Generally the pickpockets talk to you in a vague and distant manner, they're not switched on in the friendly way that tourists are and they shuffle about slowly like they're lost. But if you leave your iPhone in the hotel then you're totally foolproof. Last week this guy asked me if I had a lighter and then wondered off not waiting for it - his partner in crime must have detected my wet beach shorts only had one prize in them and it wasn't the one they were looking for.
1. If you REALLY need a phone at night then go to Tesco and buy a shit one. Prices start at £10 with a pay-as-you-go SIM. Put your holiday pals' numbers in it. Job done.
2. You don’t need ID or a passport to enter any gay bar in Sitges, or Spain for that matter. You just rock on in. So don’t risk taking your passport out with you – UK passports are highly valuable on the black market, quite pricey to replace and a fucking pain to reapply for.
3. You don't need photos as much as you think you do, but if you insist then go on a photo mission. Walk around with a friend for an hour taking photos, then drop the camera back at the hotel before the incredibly strong drinks settle in.
4. If you find you've lost something then go straight to the police station (beyond the railway station) and give a statement. You never know, they might find your bag ditched over a wall with sentimental items still in it - Also, the more statements the police acquire the more chance there is of the Spanish police sorting this theft epidemic out.
5. Be careful not to mention your hotel room number too loudly. That way if you lose your key card you can be safe knowing the thief can't locate the room. Our hotel number was 521 this summer so we made a nickname for it "Forever Twenty One". That's how sad we are.
6. Buy swimming shorts with velcro pockets to stuff a few Euros into for your night out. Or if you have gift with a needle then sow your own inside pockets into your shorts.
7. If you make a friend on a night out then look out for them too. Just because you've taken precautions doesn't mean they will have and the last thing you want is to find yourself a hot man for the night then spend it sitting in the police station recalling your best GCSE Spanish with him.
Have a really fun time at Poptronik festival, enjoy the sunshine, make new friends and get wrecked on the beach!
For my Gay Times guide on where to go out in Sitges see here:
And for my advice on how to get into the Sitges swing of things, like eating dinner at 10.30pm and cruising the beach at 5.30am, see here: