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Safe Residence Programme celebrates 2nd anniversary

Foreign residents and GNR officers gathered at Loulé GNR station on January 26 to mark the second anniversary of the forming of the Safe Residence Programme (SRP).

Some 35 residents representing 17 villages that have joined the programme attended the event which was hosted by Capitão Abel Arcanjo de Sousa Adriano, Commandant of the Loulé GNR Headquarters and overall in charge of the SRP which operates in the area.

Also participating were members of the team themselves, led by Cabo Chefe Coutinho and team member Frederico Sousa Fragosa, who have been involved since the programme’s inception.

Captain Adriano gave a presentation outlining the development of the programme, its aims and objectives. Highlighted was the fact that since the programme has been in operation, the number of violent indoor robberies in the areas covered by SRP has decreased from five in 2009 to none in 2011.

Property registered with the SRP.
Property registered with the SRP.

It was acknowledged that burglaries were taking place in some areas and Captain Adriano highlighted the good work done by residents in passing information concerning these which had led to arrests of those concerned by the GNR.

Two videos were shown of the programme, including one with an interview of residents and an interview with Coronal Francisco Matos Sousa, the former Commander of the GNR Faro District, which had been produced by Channel 5.

Captain Adriano added that the SRP had been accorded a high priority by the GNR top Command and was being implemented throughout the Algarve. It had also represented Portugal in the European Crime Prevention awards held in Brussels in 2010.

He added: “The simple fact that the celebration of the second anniversary of the programme was an idea of the residents is something that makes us very proud, as it shows recognition for the work done.

“In 2011, the number of properties registered with the SRP has doubled and it is our aim to promote it further, making the integration of more properties easier and quicker. We want to encourage the community to participate in matters relating to public safety. Prevention and response time are key to a safer community.”

Official support

This was followed by a presentation by David Thomas who runs the SRP in Alfontes and who recently formed Safe Communities Algarve, an online platform to provide crime prevention advice to the public.

David started by thanking the support received by the Commander of the GNR Faro in creating this platform, which has been recognised by a number of officials including the British Ambassador to Portugal and the Algarve Tourism Board.

He explained the work of Safe Communities Algarve and how it complemented that of the SRP. He added that there were more than 20 downloads available to the public covering a diverse range of crime prevention advice from property protection, motorist crime, to dealing with intruders in the home.

After the presentations, an informal celebration was held between GNR officers and residents to discuss the programme in their villages.

Present was David Cruz from Alfeição who was responsible, together with the GNR, for initiating the programme there in January 2010 following a series of violent residential robberies in the area towards the end of 2009.

Initially, the programme was aimed to cover just Alfeição and one or two villages, but due to its success has expanded rapidly throughout the Loulé area.

David and Dagmar Davies, who initiated and formed the programme in  Cruz da Assumada, a small hamlet of 125 houses in the hills north of Loulé, said: “There is very little crime, but the SRP has certainly improved the GNR response time and made the householders feel more secure.”  

This was echoed by Jan and Peter Hinz who represent Vale Telheiro, one of the first villages to join the programme. They stated that the programme has made a significant difference in relation to violent crime in our area. 

“We were pleased to note that no violent crimes were reported in this area during 2011.  However, the thieves haven’t totally given up and are seemingly now targeting vacant properties with metals being their favoured haul.  We must all maintain our vigilance and keep an eye on our neighbours’ properties.  The GNR cannot be everywhere and they need our cooperation,” said the couple.

Consul involved

Also present was Annelies Wethmar Reugebrink who represents the village of Palmeiral and is the Honorary Consul to the Netherlands.

Speaking as a long time resident of Palmeiral, Loulé, she said: “The SRP was a very direct and transparent way of handling dangerous and unsettling situations like increasing theft and house robberies.”

Sylvia and Henning Thorndahl, who developed the programme in Poço Geraldo in 2010, explained that their village had recently suffered numerous burglaries. Helped by information from residents, the GNR have succeeded in apprehending some of the thieves.

Scott Innes, representing Barranco De Apra, summed up the benefits of the SRP well, by stating “the SRP is a great idea, it greatly reduces the time of response of the emergency services, where sometimes seconds count. It also makes the people in the area more aware of strangers and to be on the lookout for unusual activity”.

David Thomas concluded that undoubtedly the Safe Residence Programme had been a great success which was a “remarkable achievement given the limited resources available”.

Response times to emergencies had considerably decreased as had violent robberies in the areas concerned. Villagers felt safer and information was being passed to the GNR more frequently which was helping them arrest those responsible.

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