Our Portuguese correspondent Afonso Henriques sent the following report more than a week ago, but it took me a while to edit it for publication. It’s an excellent summary of the criminal enrichment situation in the Lisbon area.
In addition to his translations, Afonso sent this:
This one I even found a note about in English. It’s not from Portugal, but the threat is the same to both Portugal and Spain. It pretty much speaks for itself.
Afonso’s first translation is this news report from Monday the 29th of June:
An officer of the PSP [Public Security Police] was robbed last night in Loures. The officer was “à paisana” [undercover, like a regular Joe] when he was confronted by five robbers in São João da Talha. The robbers ran away with the police officer’s gun, but after the pursuit made by the PSP, two of the robbers were captured after a gunfight.
Afonso provides some background information on the district, and says:
As for the ethnic composition of the area of São João da Talha, “Caturo”, the owner of the blog Gladius, where I found this article, comments and presents this newspaper article:
São João da Talha refuses families from Quinta da Fonte
“Each one in its place and without mixing” is the motto of the inhabitants of the urban area of Cida Talha, one neighborhood of São João da Talha, in Loures, conceived for and inhabited only by Gypsy families.
Created about four months ago, the neighborhood of Cida Talha has the peculiarity of only having inhabitants of that given ethnicity.
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Totaling 24 families, they all share a small space where blocks of houses are lined up side by side, following the fashion of the typical neighborhoods of Lisbon.
In this “mini-community”, that Lusa [an agency like Reuters or AFP, only this one is Portuguese] visited, the inhabitants claim to live very happily and guarantee that they all are part of one great family.
“Few are the days where there’s no activity in the streets”, António Caldeira tells us. “During the afternoon the streets of the neighborhood are filled with people. The community gathers in a small plaza to talk, play cards, and in the case of children, to play football or ride the tricycle”.
Alice Fernanda guarantees that “there is a great community among everyone and above all much respect”.
The events at Quinta da Fonte did not leave this community indifferent. The opinions Lusa heard were unanimous: “There must exist one neighborhood for Africans and another one for Gypsies.” “Each and every one must stay in their side. There shall be no mixing,” states Mário Silva with conviction, maintaining he is not racist.
The solution for the families that left Quinta da Fonte, in Apelação, may be, according to the community of this neighborhood, the creation of more social neighborhoods for Gypsy families, however they do not accept the proposal that they be relocated to São João da Talha. “We don’t want them here. Too many people together cannot be saved,” says Mário Silva ironically.
It shows that without multiculturalism even the Gypsies can create functioning communities. In fact, it is true that the all-Gypsy communities are somewhat “good” places. I remember one night when a friend of mine and I went out to pick up another friend. It happened that we got lost and ended up in the Gypsy “ghetto” at half past midnight. Virtually in all streets at that time there was an crowd of Gypsy families happily talking with each other at their homes’ doors. The children were playing outside as well. I was impressed.
Here, unless there’s some kind of great activity, the streets are always empty at that time. It’s a kind of life that people here can only have in rural areas or very small cities.
From Wednesday, 1st of July, we have a report about criminality on public transportation, from the newspaper 24 horas:
Security: Theft and robbing-by-stretch [a method of robbery in which the robber has to rob stretching his arm and stealing a watch, a wallet, things from the victim’s pockets, etc. without them noticing. A theft with lots of style, huh?] are expected to grow between July and September.
“Tourists Are An Easy Target”
“You see that one there, close to the bus stop? He’s such a big artist that just yesterday was able to steal the wallet of a Frenchman, went out, took all the French guy’s money, and in the end he even threw away the wallet back into the eléctrico [the eléctrico is this], through the window. The man didn’t notice a thing, he only noticed when he saw his wallet in the floor.” The man giving this account is “Luís”, driver of this line 28 of the “eléctrico” for more than three years, which the CM [Correio da Manhã, “The Morning Mail” in English, the newspaper which presents this] accompanied on a trip between Prazeres and Martim Moniz, in Lisboa. And it is confirmed. Although we’re in late June and the heat is uncomfortable, the “wallet-robber” keeps wearing a large and dark coat. “It’s to hide everything he steals”, says our “cicerone”.
In a lovely gesture, the robbers usually offer a seat to the foreign tourists that climb on at Conceição street. “Do you want to see him come close to the lady with that purse…?” And so he does. But he then gives up when he feels we are observing him. He sits down and gets out in the next stop. “He had bad luck. The eléctrico is not that full and in this way he cannot pass unnoticed.”
The presence of wallet-robbers in the eléctrico 28 is already normal. It’s the trip in which a great part of the 14,931 thefts of this kind registered by the PSP [Public Security Police] were committed in 2008. Many of which were between July and September. “The tourists are easy targets. They don’t know the city, they have a lot of money in their wallets, and when they get their documents back they don’t even report it to the police,” a source from the Division of Security and Public Transports of the PSP explains to the CM.
The “wallet-robbers” are already known by the authorities. “There are the Portuguese, old school guys, that do this for years and use the money to feed a gambling addiction. Then there are the foreigners, from Eastern Europe, that attack in families.” The police estimate that there are currently, in Lisbon only, around 80 “wallet-robbers” of Portuguese nationality and half a hundred foreigners. But it is difficult to catch them.
“First we have to catch them actually committing the crime. Then the penal measures for this crime are a joke. The punishment is a maximum of five years in jail, and therefore there is no preventive arrest.” “Luís” was right: “There are guys who are detained in the morning and at the end of the afternoon are already stealing again. It’s in their blood.” Even knowing they are a target, Andre and Yasmin, a German couple aged 29 and 22, visiting Portugal, say that Lisbon is a “very safe city”. And guarantee that ‘“he panorama is the same when traveling through other European capitals. It’s enough to be aware and be careful,” they say.
‘There Are Organized Groups: Attendant Pedro Gouveia, Cabinet of Operations of PSP’
CM — The thefts in public transports are a worrying reality?
Pedro Gouveia — They are a conflicted reality because it’s a crime difficult to prove. It’s discreet and it’s almost impossible to catch them in action.
— Which places are problematic?
— It is a kind of crime that can be verified in all metropolitan areas and areas where there are crowds. It’s the high number of people that makes public transportation a privileged place for robbers.
— Who are the main victims?
— The foreign tourists.
— What’s the profile of the “wallet-robbers” in current activity?
— Currently there are organized groups making a living out of this. They are people, men and women, who make this their profession.
Robberies on the Trains of Sintra And Cascais
In the train heading for Cascais the hotter days can become problematic. Groups of youths come from the suburbs of the capital and gather to go to the beaches on the line. According to the conductor on the CP [Combóios de Portugal, “Trains of Portugal” in English], “they come in large groups, almost always without a ticket, and they mess with everybody. The worst is when they encounter rival groups in the same train.”
The PSP is aware of this reality, but minimizes its impact. “It’s situations in which the thefts are collateral [Note from the translator: I translated this correctly. It’s PC insanity, I guess. I don’t understand how the thefts are collateral either]. Many times it is the feeling of insecurity that is created by the sight of a group of 20 or 30 youths entering the train at the same time’, the attendant Pedro Gouveia says to the CM.
In comparison, the Sintra line is considered more dangerous. It is one of the lines more affected by thefts-by-stretch, a type of crime that in the summer of 2008 rose 17.6% compared to the same period during the previous year. Mobile phones, purses, gold necklaces are the most sought-after objects by the robbers. “The average of two reported thefts per day,” states the source in the Division of Security in Transports of the PSP.
But not only this. Confrontations between rival gangs and thefts under threat of white weapons [all sort of knives and the like] are constant in the Sintra line. “Especially early on Saturdays and Sundays there are numerous groups of youths who are drunk from parties and that create problems when they are returning home.”
Fátima: Video Surveillance
An all-year destination for thousands of believers and pilgrims, the Sanctuary of Fátima is also sought by “wallet-robbers”. This was one of the reasons that motivated the installation of surveillance video in the Sanctuary.
Metro (Underground): Four Robberies
The theft-by-stretch or by threat with a white weapon continues to be the biggest problem in the Metropolitan [Underground/Subway] of Lisbon, currently at an average of four per week.
Drivers: A Target for Robbers
According to the data from PSP, during 2008 228 cases of assault to drivers of public transportations were registered all across the country. Many of which were committed under threat of a weapon.
Afonso includes these remarks:
Well, they talked about the lines of Sintra and Cascais. The Metropolitan Area of Lisbon has about 2.8 million people but only half a million live in the city of Lisbon proper. Then there were two beautiful Historical Villages close to Lisbon and then, the agglomeration growth in the direction Lisbon-Cascais and Lisbon-Sintra.
Trains come and go from Sintra to Lisbon and from Cascais to Lisbon all day long, thus they call it “the lines”. The line of Cascais, on the coast, has 350 thousand people. The line of Sintra has 750 thousand people. Then there’s also the Southern Bank of the Tagus, with half a million people across the river. These are the most enriched areas. Then, there’s also more one million people living in other places. Also enriched is the Loures line with some 320 thousand people.
On the train lines and in the train stations, violence is frequent, as well as enrichment. Outside of Lisbon, generally speaking the closer to the train line, the more enriched is the region. I’ll leave you an article about an episode that happened not too long ago (16th June) so that you can have a grasp of what I’m talking about, and the kind of violence on the train lines
Cascais: Death of a young man generates fear of vengeance
Inhabitants of the neighborhoods of Tower [overwhelmingly inhabited by Africans] and Cruz Vermelha [overwhelmingly Africans] are worried with the growing tension between groups
The locals of the neighborhoods of Torre and Cruz Vermelha, in Cascais, are worried about the growing tension between groups of youths. The inhabitants told the Lusa agency that they fear “conflicts and vengeance” after a boy was killed.
Aldair Martins [African], a young male aged 18 from the Torre neighborhood, was electrocuted Saturday morning in the train station of Cascais, after had been pursued by a group of 30 youths from various neighborhoods, among them Cruz Vermelha, Alcoitão and Fontaínhas [all of them African by a large majority].
A woman living in the neighborhood of Cruz Vermelha, who asked not to be identified, told the Lusa she’s afraid of what may happen. The woman considers it “understandable” that the youths of the Torre neighborhood “want to come ‘finish businesses’ with the guilty”, but notices that “the problem is if they catch innocent people, who have nothing to due with what happened.”
Like the woman, the owners of one of the cafés in the neighborhood says that “sooner or later they come here, besiege the neighborhood, get even, and then those from here go there to get even and then the others will come here again to get even and this never ends.”
The statements of Lito Indau, uncle of the dead young man, corroborate in a way the fears of the inhabitants of the Cruz Vermelha neighborhood. The man, who lives in the Torre neighborhood, admitted to the Lusa that “the people in the neighborhood are all very disgusted and there are some who want to take justice into their own hands.”
The president of the association of inhabitants of the Torre neighborhood, Maria José, told the Lusa that there are no conflicts in the neighborhood, nor indications of problems. But Maria José confesses that there are inhabitants who fear the conflicts.
For a complete listing of previous enrichment news, see The Cultural Enrichment Archives.