Justice minister Catarina Sarmento e Castro. Photo: António Cotrim/ Lusa

Increasing juvenile delinquency – government creates special team

“We need to study (this) reality”, says Justice minister

Catarina Sarmento e Castro, Portugal’s minister of justice, has explained today why the government is setting up a working group to study increasing incidences of crime among young teenagers in Portugal.

She told journalists in Braga: “It is necessary, right now, to start understanding and studying this phenomenon; to start analysing this reality; to see what justifies these youths acting in these ways. It is necessary to study reality. And it is necessary to look, very probably, for those causes”.

José Luís Carneiro, minister of internal administration, has also alluded to the special multidisciplinary team being assembled, “composed of elements of public health, social security, police, and members from other government areas”.

“I confirm that a team is being formed that will have people from public health to assess the terms in which confinement (meaning lockdowns) may contribute to justify the growth of indicators linked to juvenile delinquency”, he said. 

“We also want to have people linked to social security and social protection of the most deprived. Then other services will be present, namely the PSP, the GNR and other governmental areas … to try to detect the causes”.

The special team is being created following the Annual Internal Security Report (RASI) for 2021 which revealed that gang criminality increased by 7.7% last year, and juvenile delinquency by 7.3% compared to 2020.

According to the RASI, there were 4,997 reports of gang crime in 2021, up 359 from the previous year.

The report said that gang crime is mainly associated with gangs of young people, between the ages of 15 and 25, with “a vast criminal history centred essentially on the practice of theft, robbery, grevious bodily harm and threats”, all generally taking place “during the nighttime“.

Ms Sarmento e Castro said the team has to ask “what leads these young people to behave like this? Afterwards, we can know what can be done, most probably, at the origin, and try, above all, to prevent this from happening”, she said.

“It’s important, above all, to educate for the law. If we start working, educating these young people about the law, we will prevent them from entering the system later on and, therefore, we want, above all, to prevent and educate them about the law”, she added. “This is what is fundamental”.

News of this special team also follows a number of recent reports of ‘youth shootings’ – some of them with the most tragic consequences.

Only a week ago, a young man was shot in the head and killed essentially because he was in a disco urinal ‘at the wrong time’. His attacker reportedly didn’t like the way the young man was looking at him, said so – and then shot him dead.

There have been other incidents, almost always in metropolitan areas – even reports of young people shooting at other young people in cars on busy roundabouts.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com