Algarve GNR have had ‘altos e baixos’ this week: an incredible drug haul was celebrated in the east near Vila Real de Santo António, while a ‘simple theft’ from a supermarket out west left staff having to perform citizens’ arrests and wait ‘quite some time’ for authorities to arrive.
When they did, they came in a loaned vehicle, as the local police fleet was ‘out of action’.
First to the ‘good news’: the almost 3 ton haul of hashish apprehended from a high-powered speedboat detected steaming up the Guadiana River very early on Friday morning.
Thanks to the SIVICC radar system which operates with thermal imaging cameras, coastal control cops became aware of the craft around 5.20am.
Say reports, the 10-metre boat may have come in from north Africa.
What instantly became clear however was that it was carrying no less than 85 bales of hashish – a total of 2.8 tons. It’s an extraordinarily large haul for the size of the boat, which was crewed by a lone Spaniard, now in police custody.
“Suspicious movements” detected on the Spanish side of the river – involving the movement of vehicles and individuals – resulted in Spanish authorities arresting a Moroccan individual in the area of Villablanca, “suspected of being related with the occurrence”.
But while it was ‘slaps on the back all round’ in this instance, a “simple case of shoplifting” from a supermarket in Budens in the extreme west of the region did not play out anything like as well.
SIC television news carried a two and a half minute report on the dismal situation, suggesting it “shows the lack of means” suffered by regional authorities.
The ‘new’ GNR post serving the area had only one agent on duty. He had to wait for ‘back up’ from Lagos (20 kms away) – and when it arrived, he was obliged to use a vehicle on loan from Civil Protection, as the station’s jeep was ‘in the repair shop’.
If this was a ‘freak situation’ it might be acceptable, but according to SIC this is pretty much ‘business as usual’ in the west where the boroughs of Vila do Bispo and Lagos both operate with a fraction of the agents assigned to them.
Said the station citing APG – the professional association of GNR police – in Vila do Bispo “counting holidays, days off, sick leave and other absences of the 21 agents assigned to the station there are only four working”.
The situation is very similar in Lagos: of the station’s 24 agents, only seven are available for work.
“APG explains that every year around 300 agents come into the service but 600 to 700 retire or leave”.
“We have reached a limit”, the association’s António Barreiro told SIC, stressing that citizens can see the situation all too clearly for themselves, and that the minister (of internal administration) can only be hiding from the truth, “or isn’t being told”.
The incident in Budens – although very ‘small time’ – was, said Barreiro, just another example of a GNR force operating against the odds.