Image: Diário de Notícias

Gang violence: triple number of homicides and attempted murders registered by PJ

Between January and May 64 cases of murder and attempted murder just in Lisbon…

While President Marcelo continues his indefatigable promotion this weekend of Portugal and the Portuguese, the reality is this is a country increasingly witnessing incidents of gang violence on the streets – particularly in large cities.

Between January and May this year, PJ police have registered a total of 64 homicides and attempted murders in the metropolitan area of Lisbon alone – of which more than a third were connected gangs involving minors as young as 15.

An official source has admitted that the first five months of 2022 have seen cases of youth violence triple in terms of the same period in 2021.

The PJ’s national directorate stresses that it “doesn’t distinguish between attempted murder and consummated murder” from the point of view of criminal investigation; all these situations get “maximum priority for investigation”.

Diário de Notícias explains the increasing incidents of violence between rival groups of youths prompted the Ministry of Interior Administration to prepare for the creation of a special ‘pluridisciplinary team’ last year.

This year’s developments have simply underlined the necessity for such a body, says the paper.

A police source confirms: “There have been multiple cases of stabbings (this year), of shootings using shotguns and pistols, which only by luck have not resulted in deaths in some cases”.

Among those who have died was Isaac Oliveira, aged 16, shot in February in Camarate “in the context of group violence”. In this case, criminal investigators have arrested four people alleged to have been involved, aged between 17-27.

This particular death “was planned”, the police source adds. Isaac was shot from a moving car on a public road, and was part of a gang known as K26 (operating in Fetais/ Camarate). K26’s ‘rivals’ were a group from nearby Lumiar, known as PDS – one of the members of which had been stabbed previously by members of K26…

And so it goes on. 

“The game of revenge and counter-revenge, using social media as the stage of constant challenge through hip-hop and drill combats, has become commonplace”, said the source. 

The situation has reached the point of seeing YouTube videos uploaded, “with lyrics expressing enormous violence in which the name of the next victim for slaughter is announced”.

Since concentrating on gang violence last year, the PJ has been targeting various groups, arresting over 150 suspects, 40% of which remain in preventive custody, says DN.

The ministry of interior administration assures it is “conscious that these phenomenon – which include (incidents) in the field of juvenile delinquency – constitute a challenge that threatens social tranquility and require an increased effort in the adoption of adequate solutions, which is why it is creating an interdisciplinary working group to analyse these phenomena and involve different government areas”.

Last week, for example, secretary of state for internal security Paulo Vizeu Pinheiro, coordinated an extraordinary meeting on “the criminality of juvenile gangs”.

The meeting brought together interior minister José Luís Carneiro, justice secretary Jorge Costa and secretary of state for interior administration Isabel Oneto, as well as various representatives of the hierarchy of the PJ, GNR and PSP police forces.

Vizeu Pinheiro created a ‘mixed team’ to work on this issue last November – but due to the “different criteria” used by police forces, it has been difficult to conclude what DN describes as a “rigorous picture on the evolution of this phenomenon”.

What has become clear is that gang violence is “on the rise” – this has been borne out by the Attorney General’s office, which announced recently: “in the absence of consolidated quantitative data for 2022, initial indicators point to a substantial increase in the number of educational guardianship processes (involving minors aged 12-16) compared to the same period in 2021. Likewise, official data available reveals an increase in compulsory internments in educational centres”.

Last year’s homeland security report (RASI) showed that crimes committed between youths aged between 12-16 had increased by 7.3% – the second major increase in a decade, accompanying a 7.7% increase in the growth of ‘group criminality’.

RASI 2021 described “groups of young people with a vast criminal history centred essentially on the practice of robbery and serious offences to physical integrity (grievous bodily harm)”.

The report highlighted 30 such gangs in the metropolitan area of Lisbon, whose principal infractions run from “violent criminal damage to the detention of prohibited weapons, murder, robbery and kidnap” in “activity that mainly takes place during the night”.

On cue, as DN’s story was published, a young man was gunned down in the street in Almada (for the time being no details on his condition have been given).

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com