There were 343,845 registered crime reports in Portugal in 2022, an increase of 14% compared to 2021 and 2.4 % compared to 2019. In the last 10 years overall, registered crime averaged 336,918 cases per year, 18% lower than the average for the previous decade.
The 2021 and 2020 pandemic years are anomalous years for annual comparison purposes, so the RASI report has also included comparisons with 2019 (pre-pandemic). For instance, overall crime in 2020 stood at 298,707 cases, the lowest for 30 years! But clearly this was considerably influenced by confinement.
It is important to note that these figures relate to reported crime and cases arising from investigations. These can vary a great deal depending on the number of police operations, such as drink driving, for example. Another issue is that crime categories have changed over the years (common to most countries) with the new crime legislation being introduced and some discarded. Trends have also changed; for example, since 2018 cybercrime through cyber- attacks (classified as “computer/communications scams”) have more than doubled to 20,901 cases, whereas physical crime has decreased.
Crime in Portugal is divided into six broad categories, the main ones being as follows: “Crime against heritage”, which is mainly property crimes; “Against Life in Society”, which includes drink diving over criminal limit and forest crimes; and “Separate Legislation”, which includes drug offences and illegal immigration.
Of these, by far the highest number of crimes are in the category “Crimes against Heritage” (which includes property crime, which is half of all cases) followed by “Crimes against people” (25%) and “Crimes against Life in Society” (12.8%). These percentages have remained fairly similar over the last 10 years.
In 2022, the number of arrests increased (+32.1%) as did searches (+4.4%). However, there was a decrease in the number of defendants (-3.2%).
Analysing the evolution of criminality, since 2006, in a 17-year cycle, it appears that the levels recorded, although increasing compared to 2021, are considerably lower, with a downward trend observed both in general criminality and in violent and serious crime. In 2022, violent and serious crime represents 3.9% of all reported crime.
It is important to highlight domestic violence, which registered an increase of 15% for violence against spouse/ partner, being the highest reported crime in 2022 (26,073).
Among the crimes with the highest rate of participation were: drug and precursor trafficking (+48.1%), driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol equal to or greater than 1.2 g/l (+43.4%), opportunist theft (+40.2%), theft in a commercial or industrial building without a break-in, (+39.2%) and other scams (+30.4%).
High volume crimes which showed decreases included: motor vehicle theft (-2.7%), computer fraud and in communications (-2.2%) and driving without a legal license (-1.7%).
International drug trafficking
Mainland Portugal is a destination for trafficking conducted by trans-continental criminal organisations, which introduce significant amounts of cocaine and hashish into national territory in order to supply the markets of European countries. Criminal organisations, based in Spain, have used several locations in Portugal for the storage and mooring of high-speed vessels used to transport narcotics. There were increases in the number of detainees for drug trafficking (+75.3%) and seizures (+24.2%).
Regarding economic and financial crime, corruption and related crime, the number of reports fell by 11%. The number of arrests increased by 26% with counterfeit currency reports registering an increase of 11.6%, with a decrease in seizures of Euro banknotes, (-16%) and increase in US Dollar seizures (+78%).
Catalytic converter theft
In the last three years, this crime has been subject to greater increased monitoring and combat, resulting in a decline in the number of registered cases, with a total of 5,644 registered in 2022 occurrences, representing a reduction of 398 cases (-6.6%), compared to the previous year. The areas with highest incidence ere: Lisbon (2,430 cases), Setúbal (1,263 cases) and Porto (860 cases).
Crime by area – the Algarve (Faro District)
The largest number of crimes per district were Lisbon with 82,868 (+14.8%); Porto with 51,398 (+8.1%); Setubal with 31,270 (+19%); Faro with 23,906 (+15%) and Aveiro with 19,229 (+8.2%)
Faro district, including all 16 municipalities of the Algarve, saw a 15% increase in crime last year (a total of 23,906 incidents) compared to 2021. Compared with 2019 (pre-pandemic year), crime increased by 1.7% and is roughly in line with the level 10 years ago. The main crime areas reflecting the highest populations and visitors were Loulé, Faro and Albufeira, together comprising 45% of the region’s crime, similar to the last 10 years.
The main crimes registered were simple assault (1,668 incidents), followed by drink driving 1.2 g/l and over (1,564); criminal damage (1,505); domestic violence (1,403); theft from motor vehicle (1,376); computer/information scams (1,312); other scams (1,231); opportunist theft (1,037) and threats and coercion. Scams that come to SCP’s notice include: property rental/purchase and travel scams.
Most of the crimes listed above showed an increase compared to 2021, except for residential break-ins which decreased by -17.9%, down to 741 cases; theft from motor vehicle, down -2.7%, and driving without a driving licence at 985 cases, down -1.5%.
Although violent crime increased to 876 cases in 2022 (23.9% compared to 2021), this is lower than in 2019 and 23% lower than 10 years ago. Violent crime amounts to 3.6% of all crime in the Algarve, lower than the national rate of 3.9%.
There were 34 residential robberies (violence or threat of violence), the lowest since 2016. Of these there were seven in Olhão, Tavira and six in Loulé. In the mainland as a whole there were 500.
Comparing with 2019 there were some positive points with a 21% decrease in opportunist theft, which is perhaps an indicator that people are taking greater care of their property. However, in the case of theft from vehicles there was a 7% increase in the Algarve, (compared to the mainland decrease of -2.4%), showing that there is more awareness required concerning this type of crime.
Drink driving over the criminal limit is of concern with a 29% increase compared to 2019, despite a great deal of publicity concerning the dangers. Most of these is positive testing following an accident. Drivers driving without a licence saw a 25% increase over the same period.
By David Thomas
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David Thomas is a former Assistant Commissioner of the Hong Kong Police, consultant to INTERPOL and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
In 2011, he founded Safe Communities Algarve to help the authorities and the community prevent crime. It is now registered as Associação SCP Safe Communities Portugal, the first national association of its type in Portugal.
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