Crime in Portugal

Crime in Portugal

Crime in Portugal is characterized by low levels of gun violence and homicide, compared to other developed countries. Crime statistics are compiled annually by the Portuguese Ministry of Internal Administration and the Polícia de Segurança Pública which represents crimes reported to the police.

The country's overall crime rate is reflected through index crimes, which include homicide, forcible rape, robbery, assault, classified as violent crimes. Property crimes include burglary, larceny/theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. Statistics for index offenses are generally available for both the country as a whole and by region. While the crime rate rose in the 1990s, bringing it to an all-time high during much of this period, it still is low compared to other developed countries, and has decreased in the 2000s. However, violent crime has risen during the same period and reached record highs.[1][2][3] Portugal's security and peace indicators compare very favourably to other countries. According to the 2009 Global Peace Index rankings, Portugal is the 14th most peaceful country in the world.



Portugal has a relatively low rate of violent crime; however, petty crime is a reality in some areas. Ordinary citizens may become targets of pickpockets and purse snatchers at crowded popular tourist sites, restaurants, or on public transportation in the largest cities, in particular within Lisbon and Porto metropolitan areas. While thieves may operate anywhere, the largest number of reports of theft received by the authorities usually are from the heavily populated areas and major tourist destinations.[4]

Portugal's largest metropolitan areas of Lisbon and Porto are the main sources of both petty crime and violent crime.

  • Greater Lisbon: Theft is widespread in tourist destinations in the Greater Lisbon area such as the towns of Sintra, Cascais, and Mafra. Casal Ventoso, a neighborhood of Lisbon where drug traffickers and drug users used to gather, was demolished in response to its increasingly unsavory reputation. Amadora the municipality where Buraca and the feared Cova da Moura neighborhood is located, a stopping point of many of the displaced people of the former Casal Ventoso, and Marvila, a parish in eastern Lisbon municipality, as well as some areas of the municipalities of Odivelas, Loures and Vila Franca de Xira around the Portuguese capital, have a higher incidence of crime. Automobile break-ins sometimes occur in parking areas at tourist attractions and near restaurants. There are reports of organized crime and gangs.
  • Greater Porto: There have been reports of theft and violent crime in the area. Some places such as train stations, the Ribeira neighborhood in Porto, as well as some areas of Gondomar and Valongo municipalities have been especially problematic. There are reports of organized crime and gangs.
  • Algarve: There are no reports of organized crime or gangs, however, as a major centre of international tourism and located in a corner of Europe close to the North of Africa, the region has been noted by the growing number of cases related with drug trafficking. Pickpockets and other petty criminals exist in moderate numbers.
  • Azores (archipelago): Pickpocketing and purse snatching are not common occurrences in the Azores. There are no reports of organized crime or gangs.
  • Madeira (archipelago): Pickpocketing, while infrequent, may occur in some areas of Funchal.

Crime was a major source of discontent, and sentiment that Portugal was becoming increasingly unsafe since the country became a destination for several thousand emigrants from diverse locations around the globe (in particular from Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Brazil and the former Portuguese territories in Africa - the PALOP countries) after 1990, led to the dismissal of Internal Administration Minister Fernando Gomes (a former mayor of the city of Porto) in the early 2000s on the heels of gang violence that made headlines.[5]

Along with the gang crime wave, which involved large groups of youths, wreaking havoc on commuter train lines and robbing gasoline (petrol) stations, the country was also shocked by attacks on nightclubs, and a rise of violent crime related with local and international organized crime which includes a number of gangs particularly active in Greater Lisbon and Greater Porto areas. In addition, with the development and modernization of the economy within the globalization process, corporate crime, financial crime and corruption are heavily punished and increasingly important issues.[6]


Victims of a crime must report to the nearest police department. The national telephone emergency number is 112, which is used in the entire European Union. The law enforcement system assists the victim to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how further legal procedures could be used. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is the responsibility of local authorities which include main police forces such as the Polícia Judiciária (criminal investigation police), the Polícia de Segurança Pública (regular urban police), and the Guarda Nacional Republicana (gendarmerie), officers can help the victim to understand the criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. Portugal has a crime victim's assistance program, administered through an organization known by its acronym, "APAV" (Associação Portuguesa de Apoio à Vítima).[4]

Criminal penalties

Persons violating Portugal's laws, even unknowingly, may be arrested or imprisoned. In the 19th century, Portugal was one of the first countries in the world to abolish the death penalty. Maximum jail sentences are limited to 25 years.

Tolerance of drugs

Portugal has arguably the most liberal laws concerning possession of illicit drugs in the Western world. In 2001 Portugal decriminalized possession of effectively all drugs that are still illegal in other developed nations including, but not limited to, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and LSD. While possession is legal, trafficking and possession of more than "10 days worth of personal use" are still punishable by jail time and fines. Since decriminalization was implemented, Portugal has seen rapid improvement in the number of deaths from drug overdoses as well as a decline in new HIV infections. [7]

Noted cases

Examples of noted criminal cases include:


  1. ^ (Portuguese) "Portugal surge em terceiro lugar no ranking dos países da União Europeia (UE) onde mais aumentou o número de crimes violentos e de roubos na década de 1995 a 2005.", Licínio Lima, Crescem o roubo e crime violento, Diário de Notícias (27th November 2007)
  2. ^ Distribuição da evolução global - Todos os Departamentos, Polícia de Segurança Pública
  3. ^ "The greatest rises were in France, Greece and Portugal (16%),...", International Review of Crime Statistics, International Review of Crime Statistics
  4. ^ a b US Department of State, TRAVEL.STATE.GOV - Portugal, US Department of State
  5. ^ (Portuguese) Ricardo Dias Felner, "Com o sindicalismo encaminhado, e Coelho promovido para a pasta do Equipamento, o ministro Fernando Gomes acabaria por ser vítima (para além do caso Barrancos, com calendário ciclicamente previsível) da dramatização de um outro fenómeno determinante no MAI: o aumento da criminalidade, violenta, juvenil e grupal, e do sentimento de insegurança. Ainda que tivesse sido António Guterres, na campanha para as legislativas, que lhe deu a primeira vitória, ao apostar no tema da criminalidade, o problema só ganharia visibilidade e dimensão públicas no seu segundo mandato. Mas por más razões. No Verão de 2000, com os assaltos ao comboio da Linha de Cascais e à actriz Lídia Franco, na CREL, despontava a noção de uma tendência, confirmada pelos relatórios de Segurança Interna e por inquéritos de vitimação, ligada a roubos e agressões de rua. Terá sido fatal a Gomes a inexperiência demonstrada relativamente à investigação criminal: no caso Luanda, por exemplo, o ministro anunciou, nos "media", a captura para breve dos autores do crime, quando a investigação estava sob a alçada da Polícia Judiciária (PJ). Dentro do Governo, alguns colegas não lhe terão perdoado as falhas. Durante o seu mandato ficou ainda definida a nova lei orgânica da PJ, que deu à PSP maiores competências na área da investigação criminal." Administração Interna, Público, 6th March 2002
  6. ^ People & Power, Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera (March 2008)
  7. ^ [1] 5 Years After: Portugal's Drug Decriminalization Policy Shows Positive Results
  8. ^ (Portuguese) Face Oculta, RTP, October 31, 2009
  9. ^ (Portuguese) Face Oculta: Manuel Godinho montou uma rede, Diário Digital, November 2, 2009.

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