Banners reading "We want a worthy neighborhood" hang from a balcony in the Raval neighborhood in Barcelona, wheren some buildings house "narcopisos" or drug-flats, on February 14, 2018.
/ AFP / Lola BOU
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A decade after Spain's property bubble burst, dozens of vacant apartments in the city centers of Madrid and Barcelona have turned into "drug flats," to the dismay of local residents who complain of abandoned syringes and frequent brawls.Other neighborhoods in Spanish cities, such as the working class Puente de Vallecas district in southern Madrid and El Raval in the center of Barcelona, have seen an explosion in the number of drug flats in recent years, sparking street protests by locals.Figures on how many empty flats have been taken over by drug dealers are hard to come by. Catalan police said that by early this month 17 flats had been searched so far this year in connection with drug trafficking and 34 people arrested.The authorities blame the rise in drug flats on the economic downturn that followed the collapse of a decadelong building boom in 2008 causing tens of thousands of families to be evicted from their homes.Madrid's left-wing city hall has boosted the number of municipal police to fight the problem and said it will install security cameras on streets with drug flats.
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