Barcelona's system of law and order currently relies on more than one type of police force. There are the Mossos d'Esquadra, the Cuerpo Nacional de Policia, the Guardia Civil, and Guardia Urbana. There is also the Policia Portuaria, whose influence is limited to the boundaries of the port, so you are less likely to come across them.
Mossos d' Esquadra
The Mossos d' Esquadra are the police force of the autonomous community of Catalunya. They were originally founded in the 18th century to protect Catalan interests, and the level of influence and authority they held has varied according to the ruling powers of the time. The current incarnation of the Mossos was established in 1980, when their status as a civilian (non military) police force under the Generalitat de Catalunya was determined. The main function of the Mossos is to protect the freedom and security of citizens, in accordance with the governing legislations. This include investigating and dealing with crime in the city, surveillance and maintaining order during public demonstrations and festivals. They are also responsible for crime prevention and assisting at the scene of an accident.
According to an article dated this 15th September in the El Pais newspaper, the total and final number of Mossos is scheduled to be 18,267, a number which will be reached in the year 2015. The Catalan population is by then expected to have reached between 7,7 and 8,1 million. The article goes on to say that the gradual replacement of Guardia Civil with Mossos, which is due to be completed in 2008 is going ahead on track. Information sharing, particularly in areas such as drug trafficking and terrorism, is essential, and to this end the forces have shared access to some intelligence databases. "The problems between police entities are not simple, "said the President of the Generalitat Pasqual Maragall, "but we have achieved that there is a co-operation to apply the estatut."
The National Police, or Guardia Civíl, are a military police force controlled by the Madrid government. Their function relates particularly to issues that affect Spain as a country, and Spain's relations with the rest of the world. The Guardia Civil controls customs and entry points into the country, such as airports and shipping ports. This includes all issues relating to immigrants, the provision of passports and National Identity Documents (DNI), crimes relating to terrorism, counterfeit money, and drug trafficking by organised groups that operate outside Catalunya - although often these types of investigations are done in collaboration with the Mossos. They are also responsible for vigilance and protection of buildings that deal with state administration.
Guardia Urbana, who perhaps have the strongest visual presence on the city streets, deal with maintaining public order in Barcelona. If the traffic lights are down, they will be supervising the roads; if the beer sellers are getting cheeky they'll increase their presence and surveillance, and they haven't been know to miss a botellón yet. The Guardia Urbana are also the first point of call for situations such as neighbourhood rows, or for residents who are suffering from noise pollution from a nearby bar, etc.
The Mossos would be your first port of call to report a crime. It is also possible to report a crime through the internet. Log onto www.policiadecatalunya.net, and click on "accés a l'oficina virtual de denúncies". Choose which language you want to make the report in, between Spanish, Catalan, English, German, French and Italian. The types of reports that can be made online are loss of items, report of theft or damages, robbery from house, building, bar, or other establishment, theft from inside a vehicle, or theft of a vehicle. Reporting other types of crime, such as physical violence against a person, or a crime where perpetrators can be named and identified cannot be done online.
The form to fill in requires the details and address of the person making the report, the date, time and location of the events, plus a description of the circumstances. If you are reporting a property theft, list the items that were stolen. You are then asked to select which Mossos police station you'd like this report to be sent to. For the report to be legally valid, you then need to go to this police station with your reference number and sign a copy within 72 hours; and you don't need to wait for an appointment to do this.