POLICE RAIDED a train on the Algarve line last weekend and searched a group of 20 youths, who were causing trouble with other passengers. A recent spate of incidents, particularly at weekends between Tavira and Faro, prompted the police intervention.
One frightened passenger says there has been a marked deterioration recently. “I have stopped travelling by train. It’s too risky, especially at weekends,” said António Luís, a Tavira resident. “Boys board the train and do what they want inside the carriages. Ticket inspectors are frightened and, for the most part, they don’t even enter these compartments at all,” he claims. Another passenger, 63-year-old José Inácio Pato, summed up the feeling of elderly passengers. “I don’t feel safe at all. Problems in these trains occur almost daily, without any action from the authorities.”
Last Saturday, disturbances finally led police to intervene. However, police were unable to make arrests because those assaulted chose not to issue formal statements for fear of reprisals. Only two individuals were identified, one for the possession of hashish and the other on suspicion of perpetrating previous assaults.
Evidence of mounting fear is visible at train stations in the Eastern Algarve. At Olhão station, a favourite rendezvous for young troublemakers, doors to staff offices are locked because of frequent assaults. At Tavira station, cleaners work with gloves and carefully sift through the rubbish before removing it. Earlier this week, they found four syringes in station bins.
Witnesses say that delinquents head to bars in the areas armed with knives and cause trouble when returning by train. Inspectors believe the problems could be resolved by increased manpower, but describe present resources as insufficient.