By DAISY SAMPSON [email protected]
Civil Governor Isilda Gomes was invited to speak about security levels in the Algarve in response to the rising level of crime in the region, specifically in the Loulé area, at the Wednesday club meeting held by the Almancil International Rotary Club (AIRC) on February 10.
Isilda Gomes told assembled members that she believes crime is now a fact of life in all countries but that in the Algarve the authorities are “constantly updating their methods and have increased the number of GNR by an extra 234 since 2008, a 30 per cent increase”.
According to statistics presented by the Civil Governor, the ratio of police officers to residents in the rest of Europe is one to 1,000 whereas in the Algarve the ratio is one to 176, while new technology, such as an electronic system to identify cars and their passengers and determine if the vehicle is stolen or the occupants are wanted within Europe and the US, is being issued to officers in the region.
Accounts of burglaries and robberies among foreign residents have increased in recent months with victims of the crimes feeling the police response has not been adequate.
Karen Morgan, who lives near Quarteira, told the Algarve Resident: “I was asleep in my bed when I woke up to find a man in my room who picked up my handbag and tried to escape.
“I chased him out of the house and scuffled with him twice before he escaped with money from my purse but left the other items behind.”
Karen sustained injuries to her head and chest following the incident in November and reported it to local police.
“The police told me they could not file a report because we were not making an insurance claim but I was hardly going to file for insurance over 40 euros,” she said.
“GNR came to my home after the robbery but were only there five minutes before leaving. This is in stark contrast to them spending 45 minutes going through paperwork on my husband’s car only two weeks ago when he was stopped at a roundabout near Quinta do Lago.”
Karen added: “Although I was disappointed in the police response to the robbery, I do not blame the GNR as I am sure they have their hands tied and I am certain that I would have been treated the same if I had been Portuguese.”
At the meeting, Isilda Gomes reiterated this sentiment stating that she has asked for government assistance for the GNR to tackle the problem of crime in the Algarve as it is affecting both Portuguese and foreign residents alike.
Graeme Cree from the Eastern Algarve was the victim of a violent gang robbery in 2007, which led to himself and his wife being held hostage and beaten by five men (see the Algarve Resident edition June 12 2008). He told the Algarve Resident that the GNR response to the crime was “impressive” at the time and that the courts were also helpful with translations and other assistance.
The members of the Romanian gang who perpetrated the crime were later arrested and received sentences between 10 and 23 years, however Graeme Cree believes this was a crime that could have happened anywhere in the world. “Violent crime does seem to be increasing in the Algarve but what happened to us could have happened to anyone, anywhere,” he said.
“Residents need to start taking responsibility for the overall level of security in the region, improving their own security in their homes or forming neighbourhood watch type groups to help police.”
The Civil Governor also welcomed initiatives by residents in the Algarve who are working with the GNR, including the numbering of homes in the area with GPS coordinates (see the Algarve Resident edition January 22). Peter Hinze and other neighbours from Vale Telheiro in Loulé were due to present a map of all the houses in the area numbered to the GNR on Wednesday evening.
The Civil Governor closed her speech by stating that concerned residents are always welcome to go and speak with her about their worries.
Meanwhile, there is still time to complete the Algarve Crime Survey, a questionnaire compiled by the Algarve Resident with the help of concerned residents.
Once the results have been compiled, a report will be created in Portuguese to be passed onto the authorities and an in depth article will also appear in the Algarve Resident.
Please take five minutes to fill in the questionnaire which is available to download via the Algarve Resident website.
Simply visit www.algarveresident.com and follow the Crime Survey link on the right hand side of the home page which can be printed and sent to our postal address, Algarve Resident, Rua Visconde de Lagoa, No. 2 e 3, 8400-329 Lagoa or email the completed questionnaire to the editor at [email protected].
Readers are asked to submit their completed form no later than Monday, February 22.
Do you have a view on this story? Please email Editor Inês Lopes at [email protected]