Children under 12 years as drug couriers


Lisbon, April 17, 2024 (Lusa) – Children under 12 years of age suspected of being part of criminal groups are often used as drug or money couriers, but there are also others who dedicate themselves to robbing young people of the same age, according to the PSP.

The final report of the commission that analyzed juvenile delinquency, released recently, states that the police identified, in the first 10 months of last year, 64 children under the age of 12 suspected of being part of criminal groups, a number that has been increasing since 2019.

According to the Commission for the Integrated Analysis of Juvenile Delinquency and Violent Crime, the GNR identified until October last year 55 children under the age of 12 suspected of being involved in criminal groups, while the number of children between 6 and 11 years old identified by PSP in the same period was nine.

Speaking to Lusa, regarding this data, Hugo Guinote, head of the Public Prevention and Proximity division of the Public Security Police, stated that these children may be involved in various types of groups: “If we are talking about a group that dedicated to drug trafficking, they often assume the role of transporting small amounts of drugs or money”.

Hugo Guinote, who was part of the commission created by the previous Government to analyze juvenile delinquency, said that there are also children under 12 years of age who commit other crimes, namely robberies and thefts, especially “to other children of more or less the same age”, which which is “greatly worrying” the police.

“Here we are no longer talking about the same type of criminal organization [such as drug trafficking]. We are talking about group crime that is not exactly a group with an organizational character. These kids end up being in a group committing some crimes, but they are not a very large group”, he explained.

The PSP officer also highlighted that some of these young people referenced by the police and who carry out acts classified as crimes have sharp weapons.

“These children are all in a dangerous situation”, he said, noting that the PSP “immediately communicates the situation” to the family and juvenile court, which can decide to remove custody from the parents and place them in social support institutions. support for children, who are mainly part of the network of the National Commission for the Promotion of the Rights and Protection of Children and Young People (CNPDPCJ).

Hugo Guinote clarified that, as these are children under 12 years of age, the courts do not send these young people to reception centers.

“A child under 12 is always considered a victim and, therefore, responses from the protection network are activated”, he stressed, clarifying that “fortunately, children under 12 years of age involved in crimes are rare situations”.

According to the PSP official, these children generally live with their families and go to school.

“Often, those who take care of these children are not the parents (…). Parents are subject to long working hours during the day, they are absent from home and these children end up, when they leave school, having no one to look after them in the household, or they are left with other relatives or left to themselves. themselves,” he said.

Contacted by Lusa, the CNPDPCJ refused to provide data on children flagged by the commissions for the protection of children and young people (CPCJ), justifying it with “reasons of reserve and confidentiality”.

“Commissions for the protection of Children and Young People work on their promotion and protection processes individually and using all community resources and conditions necessary for this purpose. The implementation of Local Plans for Children’s Rights, and coordinated intervention with entities with competence in matters of childhood and youth. The more attentive and dynamic the community is, the fewer situations of possible juvenile delinquency will arise”, indicates the commission.

The latest report available from this entity, referring to 2022, indicates that the CPCJ acted, that year, in at least 20 cases in which children under 12 years of age committed “acts qualified by criminal law as a crime”.

The commission’s report that analyzed delinquency among young people also indicates that juvenile delinquency numbers reached their highest levels in 2023 since 2015, while group crime had not been as high since 2013.

Hugo Guinote noted that the majority of young delinquents are between 12 and 16 years old, and mainly commit crimes of robbery and offenses against physical integrity and resort to weapons, mostly white.

As this person described, juvenile delinquency is mainly in the metropolitan areas of Lisbon and Porto, with some situations in Setúbal and Faro.

“They are all of school age and often go to school. They don’t stop going to school, but when they are out of school, they end up engaging in marginal activities and committing crimes. They are mainly crimes against property, but then, using violence, they end up turning into crimes against physical integrity in which they steal to get money or items that people have in their possession, such as cell phones and clothes”, he explained.

To combat this phenomenon, the PSP has been organizing several awareness-raising actions in schools, with “the results being quite positive” with a significant reduction in the number of incidents involving weapons in schools.

However, he highlighted, many of the crimes take place outside the school space, and the police are now directing their efforts towards inspection actions within the scope of night gatherings and in places where these young people can gather and where there is a greater potential for conflict.