MORE THAN 150 participants attended a congress held at Faro’s Conservatório Regional do Algarve recently to debate the issue of security in Portugal and in particular in the Algarve. The aim of the congress was to bring the issue of security out into the open and discuss important matters currently affecting the region, in order to drive political change.
José Mendes Bota, MP and leader of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) in the Algarve, acted as chairman for the event. In his brief introductory speech, he spoke of the lack of co-ordination that exists with regard to criminal investigation, calling attention to the fact that the GNR’s head office is in Évora (Alentejo), while 75 per cent of the work carried out by the force relates to the Algarve. He lamented the delay of the installation of the Tribunal da Relação de Faro (a high court in Faro), despite plans already being approved.
Mendes Bota also took the opportunity to emphasise the fact that the security forces suffer from a lack of equipment and that the equipment they do possess is mostly outdated. He also mentioned that the number of police in the region, particularly in the summer, is insufficient to guarantee the safety and wellbeing of the public.
António Pina, Socialist politician and current Civil Governor of Faro, began his speech by thanking the PSD for organising the congress and for inviting him to take part in discussions of interest to the people of the Algarve. He confirmed that he was in overall agreement with the concerns already expressed, highlighting, however, that the amount of crime in the Algarve had seen a reduction between 2003 and the current year. However, he did state that the statistics do not explain everything, namely the reasons why the number of crimes has decreased during this period.
António Pina emphasised the fact that it is possible to improve security in the Algarve region and that greater co-ordination and an improvement in information sharing between the GNR and PSP are the way forward. He also promised that the current government would build three brand new police stations in the Algarve per year and make improvements at the region’s existing units during its term in office. He also mentioned the implementation of security cameras, something that is already underway in the region, particularly in the major shopping and business areas.
MP Fernando Negrão, former Justice Minister, was also a speaker at the event. He highlighted the fact that security is a theme that does not relate to any particular party and that, luckily, the Algarve is still an “oasis” when compared to the reality nationally. However, he said: “If nothing is done, we run the risk of becoming an insecure country.”
When analysing the present situation, he pointed out that, in Portugal in 2005, 600 policemen were violently attacked, four of them losing their lives, while in New York, one of the most violent cities in the world and with a higher population than Portugal, only two policemen died. Echoing the sentiments of other speakers, he stated that the security forces were not well enough organised and that it was the fault of the political power. He spoke of the urgency of creating a coherent system, namely a specific process for the collection of information that supports and backs up the security forces.
The last of the speakers, Moita Flores, President of Santarém Câmara and one of the most respected criminologists in the country, began his speech by saying that politicians in general, over the last 30 years, ignored their responsibilities with regard to security. Moita Flores explained that politicians continue to confuse authority with authoritarianism, thereby hampering the role authorities must play.
Speaking about the organisation of the security forces, he mentioned the fact that since April 25, 1974(the date of the Portuguese Revolution), no informative statute exists. “As this is not in place and as no good policeman can work without three or four informants, we are led to conclude that the police, in order to carry out their work, have to act outside the law to get the job done,” he said, adding that politicians should not be frightened of taking decisions in this area.