I am a UK visitor to the Algarve from Otley, a small market town near Leeds, about the same size as Almancil. On market days in Otley, car parks near the market square fill early. Rules for parking are changed to accommodate extra traffic and facilitate parking for shoppers from other towns, and tourists. The operation is coordinated by local police officers who help with traffic flow and parking advice. What a contrast with the GNR in Almancil!
Last Sunday morning we drove to the open market opposite the school. The car parks were full so we parked in the same overspill area where we had parked previously, alongside the closed school. As we entered the market across the road, a bystander advised not to park there, bringing to my attention a GNR patrol car in the school main entrance.
I returned immediately to move the car, but as I started the engine, a GNR officer had rushed to intercept. He said: “It is against the law to park here” pointing to the single kerb line – “you must pay a fine”. I reasoned that 1-minute was rather a short time for a parking penalty. He said, “it is against the law to stop here”, and pointed to the white line in the middle of the road.
I sought further advice, “please can you tell us where we can park?”
He said he didn’t speak English! He then ordered me (in English!) to follow him to the patrol car and to pay a fine of €30. “Do not complain,” he threatened “or the fine could be €90 … you have broken the law three times”. Parking partially on the pavement is also technically illegal, I am told, although evidently permitted when safe to do so.
For 15 minutes, whilst we waited for the officer to complete his pro forma, my car remained ‘unlawfully parked’. I observed the conduct of a second officer involved in the operation. He was engaged in altercations with, and collecting fines from, other parking offenders.
This GNR patrol had suddenly arrived at the peak-parking-pressure-period to conduct a sting operation.
The next day, I mentioned the incident to my Dutch friend, who lives near Almancil. I asked him about police accountability and complaint procedures. He explained that, unlike UK, there is no culture of complaint in Portugal.
He recalled that a few years ago Almancil officers would regularly hide in a patrol car in the Aldi car park, to collect €50 fines off shoppers who crossed the white line to turn into Aldi, instead of driving to the next roundabout and back.
He thought that the GNR had discontinued this malpractice after one victim wrote a letter of complaint to the Algarve Resident newspaper.
Les from Otley
Full name and address supplied