By David Thomas [email protected]
David Thomas is a former Assistant Commissioner of the Hong Kong Police, consultant to INTERPOL and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. He has recently formed ISECA the Independent Security Agency here in the Algarve to help authorities and the community prevent crime.
Even being my most optimistic self, I did not expect that within the first month of the forming of Safe Communities Algarve it would have received the formal support of the GNR Faro District (Algarve), the Algarve Tourism Board and the Algarve Resident – not to mention just over 30,000 hits on its website! Tempting indeed to crack open a bottle of champagne – but there is much more to do.
Safe Communities Algarve was inspired through the work of ISECA, the Independent Security Agency, based on the need to more fully engage the community themselves in helping to reduce the risk of crime.
This strategy includes creating greater awareness of the crime situation in a responsible way, as well as “education” by communicating crime prevention advice to residents throughout the Algarve.
The police can only do so much with the resources at their disposal and very little was being done in terms of providing crime prevention advice by resident associations and indeed the security industry itself.
The other aim was to make Safe Communities Algarve a free service to all members of the community in order that as many people as possible can benefit.
Safe Communities Algarve provides a number of essential services.
Crime prevention advice and downloads
This is the heart of the website. Through this page, visitors can obtain downloads covering a wide range of crime prevention issues such as protecting your vehicle and your home as well as the work of the Night Guard Service and the Municipal Police Albufeira.
It has information about Portugal’s drug policy, Ministry of Interior’s crime prevention strategy (both in English) as well as ISECA’s crime prevention bulletins. This is also where the GNR communicates its own advice through various downloads provided by them.
Those registering with Safe Communities Algarve through the contacts page or simply emailing [email protected] will receive up to date information on new advice and bulletins that have been uploaded to the website.
To date several hundred people have registered and many of those are passing on this to friends and neighbours so word is getting around. News Today and registration is a free service.
One important role it fulfils is quickly bringing to residents’ attention important issues concerning public safety. One good example of this was on November 11 acting on enquiries undertaken by ISECA; News Today broke the story of a potential scam regarding the installation of free alarms to residents in the Algarve.
It was reported by residents that they had received unsolicited phone calls from an English-speaking woman in the Algarve purportedly representing an alarm company in the UK trying to sell alarms based on misleading information that these were being installed free of charge with the support of the Algarve Câmaras.
Furthermore, when questioned, the caller suggested that they had obtained a list of clients which had been provided to the company by the Land Registries. Information given by the caller concerning crime figures, which had worried some residents, were later found to be from one “very limited” unofficial survey conducted some two years ago and not from official or up-to-date statistics.
Calls made to the GNR and Town Halls quickly confirmed that no such arrangement existed. Albufeira Town Hall quickly issued a statement confirming this. A few days later when contacted, the alarm company concerned initially issued a statement denying this, but subsequently revealed that they had taken action against a staff member and that this would not happen again.
In addition to the Safe Communities Algarve News Today Bulletins, the issue was subsequently covered by afpop and the Algarve Resident among others. Hopefully the end of this particular episode!
I highlight this particular case as an example of a warning I gave about two months ago in this feature series concerning approaches made by cold callers, in particular those selling alarms. In some cases these may be genuine companies who choose to adopt this sales tactic; in which case, of course, they should provide accurate information and proper identification.
However, there have been many cases overseas where such approaches have resulted in scams where people have lost money. It has also resulted in unidentified people gaining access to homes with a variety of consequences.
Unfortunately now is the time of the year in the lead up to Christmas where this is often prevalent. Victims are often the elderly and the most vulnerable.
As far as I am aware, there are no registered alarm companies based here in the Algarve adopting this cold call practice, although there are one or two now engaged in door step selling where it is easier to check identification.
There is important advice here. Personally I would never purchase an alarm system originating from a cold (telephone) call as it is not an accepted practice in the security industry here. If you do receive such calls, ask the full name of the person calling, their phone number and details of their company. Never provide personal details over the phone unless you know the person or company calling you.
If you wish to call them back, use an official telephone number listed on the company website or directory. If in any doubt at all, say no and report the call to your local police station. There are many alarm companies here in the Algarve who do provide reputable services.
Before purchasing an alarm, it is always advisable to have a proper security survey undertaken and in choosing a company speak to friends and neighbours who have alarms and can share their experiences.
This leads to the ‘Partners’ page on the Safe Communities Algarve website. Here you will find information on those companies who have a proven track record and are dedicated in their particular professions of helping to promote crime prevention.
This ranges from crime prevention consultants, alarm companies, those providing security windows and a property management company. Several others will join this shortly representing a diverse range of services but sharing a common aim – helping to keep the Algarve a safe place to live.
If your business promotes this in some way, then please contact me using the website’s ‘Contacts’ page.
The ‘Links’ page provides links to those organisations that are engaged in policing, government and other related organisations. One interesting and useful link is on Victim Support services provided by APVA. It also has a link to the part of GNR and PJ websites which are in English – few people up to now knew they existed!
So as you can see Safe Communities Algarve provides a unique one stop service dedicated to crime prevention. Please make good use of this, follow its advice and encourage friends and neighbours to register to receive News Today.
It is officially supported by the GNR and the Tourism Board and welcomed by the British Ambassador to Portugal.
The support of these organisations is vital in enabling new joint initiatives to combat crime here in the Algarve. More news on this next month.
May I wish you all a safe and Happy Christmas and New Year.
For more information, please visit www.safecommunitiesalgarve.com. David Thomas, Director of ISECA – the Independent Security Agency, can be contacted at 913045093 or by email at [email protected]. Visit www.iseca.net.