By David Thomas [email protected]
David Thomas is a former Assistant Commissioner of the Hong Kong Police, consultant to INTERPOL and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. He has recently formed ISECA The Independent Security Agency here in the Algarve to help authorities and the community prevent crime
You may recall that in my first article in this series, I mentioned that I would be providing an overview of the Programa Residência Segura (Safe Residence Programme) which was launched by the Guarda Nacional Republicana (GNR) in the Loulé area in January 2010.
I became involved in this programme around April 2010, by helping the GNR promote this, mainly in the Loulé area and more recently in other areas of the Algarve through ISECA.
As the SRP is essentially a GNR operational matter involving their handling of emergencies, it is essential that this is communicated to the public accurately, holistically and in a manner agreed by them. The following text has therefore been seen and personally endorsed by the Commander of the GNR Faro District, who is responsible for GNR policing in the Algarve.
The SRP was launched in Alfeição, Loulé in January 2010 following a number of violent indoor residential robberies targeted mainly against foreign householders in this area. The idea arose from discussions held between village residents and the GNR on how best to respond to this rise in crime through closer engagement between the community and the GNR.
Following these discussions, the GNR in Loulé took the initiative to form a dedicated team with English-speaking personnel exclusively to develop the programme. Despite limited resources, this was accorded a high priority with officers specially selected for this role.
One of the first actions taken by the team was to visit residents in the area in order to promote closer engagement and provide a direct contact number in case assistance was required.
The aim of the programme was to provide a faster means of response to emergencies by the GNR through using maps, GPS coordinates and through the numbering of households in the villages concerned.
Residents in other villages also volunteered their services, and within the first few months of operation, other villages including Vale Telheiro, Poço Geraldo, Cruz da Assumada and Alfontes had joined the scheme.
This involved a considerable amount of hard work by those concerned, in drawing maps, downloading GPS coordinates, and other work in support of the GNR. Those involved in the initial stages of the programme subsequently developed a forum aimed at exchanging information and best practices between the various villages which had joined the programme in Loulé.
The coming together of “villagers” and “villages” to help one another through crime prevention was one of the most positive outcomes of this programme.
A milestone in 2010 was the development of a Guide to Establishing the SRP which was produced by SRP village representatives for use by the GNR and communities in developing the programme within the Loulé area.
Yet a further milestone that year was the SRP being selected as part of Portugal’s entry into the European Crime Prevention Awards, where it achieved commendable results.
As of September 2011, the programme had grown to some 15 villages in the Loulé area covering around 900 households.
The outcome of the Loulé “experiment” proved very positive, resulting in a greater sense of security among residents, much faster response times to emergencies and a decrease in household crime in the areas concerned.
Components of the SRP
The main components of the SRP are to:
• Provide a quick response to emergencies
• Gather information of possible movements of suspect criminals
• Facilitate the communication of information regarding crime between residents and police
• Disseminate safety advice to residents
• Target GNR resources to help prevent crimes against communities living in isolated areas
• Reduce the fear of crime caused by increases in crime in specific areas.
Setting up the programme
Given its success, the programme has been further developed and now operates throughout all six GNR divisions in the Algarve – Portimão, Albufeira, Silves, Loulé, Faro and Tavira – under the coordination of the regional GNR headquarters in Faro.
Due to the difference in demographics of various areas, the approach adopted by the GNR in establishing the programme has had to be tailored to the areas concerned.
In Loulé, it relies on a significant input from various villages in the initial stages whereas for instance in Albufeira the GNR proactively select areas to be covered.
Another difference is that the launch of the programme in Loulé takes place at local gatherings held between the GNR and the community, whereas in some other areas residents become registered when the GNR visit their homes.
Regardless of which method is adopted, residents are invited by the GNR to complete a simple pro-forma in order that they have more details of the household concerned.
This is important in helping them respond quickly and effectively to emergencies and provide greater attention when the property is empty. All property locations are based on GPS referencing.
How the programme operates in an emergency
In terms of the operation of the programme in emergencies the process is standardised. In case of an emergency the householder concerned simply dials an emergency, number, provides their name, that of the village and number of the house (only if it has been allocated one by the GNR) and states it is an emergency.
As the GNR know the location of each property, the emergency services can locate the property far quicker than before. Each team has at least one English-speaking officer.
How to obtain more information about the programme in your area
The SRP is currently expanding throughout the Algarve commensurate with GNR priorities and, of course, available resources. Some areas are further advanced than others in the implementation process. For instance, in Tavira the GNR are only at the initial stages of development.
If you are a resident in the Algarve and would like further details of the scheme and whether it currently covers your particular location (or will in the future), the best way is to contact the teams which are shown by GNR Police area.
It is recommended that for speed of operation in an emergency, the number on the table appropriate for your area is entered in your landline and mobile phones as a speed dial number.
If you have any difficulty concerning contacting the various teams directly, please contact your nearest GNR station.
ISECA is liaising closely with the GNR Headquarters regarding the future development of the SRP.
It is expected that updates will become available from time to time. In case of any difficulties or for further information about the programme, you may contact me at ISECA – The Independent Security Agency.
This article is downloadable from ISECA’s new community platform Safe Communities Algarve. Go to www.iseca.net click Safe Communities Algarve and then Safe Residence Programme. Future updates will also be available for download from the same page and communicated through the media.
David Thomas, Director of ISECA – the Independent Security Agency can be contacted at 913045093 or by email at [email protected] More about ISECA is available on its website www.iseca.net.