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Every person has the right to feel safe, says tourism chief

By DAISY SAMPSON [email protected]

As the former Civil Governor of the Algarve, Tourism Board President António Pina has a broad knowledge of the challenges facing the region in regards to security. Following the latest reports of violence against tourists in the region, the Algarve Resident spoke exclusively to António Pina about the security situation in the Algarve and what possible solutions could be considered to tackle this issue.

As the head of ERTA António Pina is responsible for promoting the region as a tourism destination and he told the Algarve Resident how he is concerned about the recent reports of violent attacks.

“Here at the ERTA we do not have exact figures on how crime levels are in comparison to previous years. However, I am aware of cases that I have read in the media and seen in the news and the issue of security is a worry for me,” he said.

“The Algarve holds a number of trump cards in attracting visitors and the level of security here has always been one of these trumps. We would love for the crime rate to be zero in the region but, unfortunately, we are not living in paradise. However, we will keep on working towards this goal.”

While ERTA has no control over the level of policing in the Algarve, as this is the jurisdiction of the office of the Civil Governor, António Pina does feel concerned with the reports of attacks.

“Every person has the right to feel safe and secure when in the Algarve. This is a right, and all the authorities – the PSP, the GNR, the Civil Governor’s office – need to be working together to achieve a secure destination for everyone.

“While these reports are very worrying, I have to say with all honesty that I feel that the Algarve continues to be a safe place for people to visit. I would still be happy to go out at night in Albufeira and I would not have a problem with a younger member of my family going out there either,” said António Pina.

While violent attacks of any type cannot be acceptable in the Algarve, António Pina concedes that people do need to be aware of possible dangers.

“If I am on holiday in Brazil, I make sure I do not have my watch showing, or jewellery, and if tourists are out in the Algarve, they need to make sure that they are careful and take precautions against being the victim of an attack.”

He stressed, however, that it is “not the responsibility of tourists” to guard themselves entirely against crime – this is the job of the security forces.

“The authorities need to react to this level of crime in Albufeira quickly and the police forces, in my opinion, do not have enough resources to be able to tackle this effectively.

“For many years I have been fighting for the introduction of CCTV in the Algarve as this would help the situation of increasing the police presence and creating a feeling of security.”

António Pina first called for CCTV to be introduced while he was Civil Governor of the Algarve, a position he held between 2005 and 2007.

“We do not want the Algarve to become a police state with hundreds of officers everywhere you go. This would not be good for anyone, so for me the simple answer would be CCTV. This way we could preserve the security and liberty of everyone in the Algarve; the business owners, residents and tourists.”

He added: “There would be no need to introduce CCTV into areas on the outskirts of main cities. It could just be restricted to commercial zones and would be a positive move for everyone.

“Unfortunately, I have found that those in authority in Portugal have a very small mentality when it comes to introducing this measure and are too busy focusing on the more intellectual level of the problem. This is a simple answer and it is crazy that it has not already been brought in.”

CCTV would be his first suggestion to improve security in the Algarve but making sure that there are more police on the streets rather than behind desks is another key issue to improvesecurity in the region according to António Pina.

“The Algarve is not a tourist destination for the summer only so to be able to increase the police presence all year around we need to ideally combine CCTV with getting the police forces on to the street and out from behind their desks. Police need to be policing while paperwork should be completed by others in offices. It is essential to be able to have our police forces on the streets.”

He added: “We all need to be working together to be able to keep the Algarve a safe place to visit and while these incidents are terrible, they are like rain storms in the summer – isolated incidents and  without a doubt I believe that the Algarve is still a safe place to visit.”