Illegal weapons seized

Police ballistics experts are increasingly concerned about the growing circulation of illegal weapons and explosives, after an Internal Security Report revealed that officers are seizing an average of four firearms a day.

The report also indicates an alarming increase in the seizure of explosive materials. A total of 1,264 weapons had been confiscated by the end of last year – more than double that of 2002 – and 500,000 munitions had been seized (a year on year increase of around 2,000 per cent). There has also been a sharp rise in armed robberies.

These figures have led the police to highlight the growing number of weapons currently in circulation – especially hunting rifles – a trend, according to the police, that should concern society in general and the security forces in particular. Experts are highlighting the existence of “international rings that are using Portugal to receive the weapons”. They also point to a flourishing arms trade, often via international rings based in Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

The authorities have not released detailed statistics relating to seizure of explosives, but a spokesman did confirm that there has been a growth of 165 per cent in the amount confiscated (1,147 kilos in 2003 as opposed to 432 kilos in 2002).

The spokesman stressed that these results stem partially from more effective investigations. He revealed that more weapons were seized in the centre and the south of the country and that most thefts take place in the north of Portugal. He also stressed that most delinquents who obtain guns for use in armed robberies rely on hunting weapons. The report also indicates a growing willingness for criminal gangs to use firearms and an increase in the number of gunshot victims, both among the general public and the police force.