by INÊS LOPES [email protected]
GNR police have dismantled what they described as a highly organised criminal network in connection with dozens of robberies of residential houses and commercial establishments across the Algarve.
As part of a three-month long investigation, GNR rapid intervention teams from both the Algarve and Lisbon arrested nine individuals, eight of Romanian nationality, including a woman, and one Moldavian, in the early hours of Monday, March 5.
The criminal gang was being investigated in relation to several violent home robberies involving both Portuguese and foreign residents as well as gun-point robberies at petrol stations across the Algarve.
During the course of the operation involving dozens of officers, the GNR detected a group of thieves attempting to rob the Cepsa petrol station on the EN125 in Ferreiras, Albufeira, at around 3am.
The individuals were intercepted by the GNR as they prepared to escape in two vehicles.
Two of them were arrested on the spot while a police chase ensued to catch the other three who had fled the scene by car, eventually being trapped in the Esteval area of Faro.
During the chase, the thieves attempted to get rid of stolen tools that had been used to commit the robberies by throwing them out of the car.
A couple of hours later, the GNR, in possession of search warrants, raided nine houses and several vehicles in the Faro and Loulé councils, leading to more arrests and stolen items being retrieved, including jewellery, watches, laptops and LCD televisions.
In total, nine individuals, aged between 28 and 48, were arrested in connection with the criminal network and were due to appear in court this week.
David Thomas, founder of Safe Communities Algarve, said that he was “very pleased to learn of these arrests”.
He said: “Clearly the activities of those involved had caused a great deal of alarm to many residents as well as loss and misery to the victims concerned.
“If found guilty, I am sure the community would hope that long custodial sentences are given as a suitable punishment and to deter those who may consider similar criminal activities.”
Following meetings with the GNR, he added that clearly this was a very complex and thorough investigation and a meticulously planned police operation resulting in the successful arrest of nine persons.
“The GNR and the Polícia Judiciária should be congratulated for their excellent work,” he said, adding that despite the arrests, people should be vigilant and report suspicious activities by telephone or email to their local police station immediately.
“From my own police experience and my own dealings with the GNR, many crimes are prevented or solved through reporting such information,” he said.
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