Homeland Security Report. Violent, hate, human trafficking and drug-related crimes increased last year


Annual Homeland Security Report warns of an increase in various crimes, including violent, hate and human trafficking, and an increase in violence between rival groups of young people.

Released this Tuesday by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Annual Internal Security Report (RASI) warns of an increase in violent crimes, such as extortion, robbery and kidnapping, last year. According to the document, the authorities also investigated more crimes related to human trafficking and aiding illegal immigration and more economic and financial crime investigations were opened. Hate crimes and the threat linked to the far right also increased in 2023, as did violence between rival groups of young people from neighbourhoods in Greater Lisbon.

Extortion, robbery and kidnapping among the violent crimes that rose the most in 2023

The RASI reveals that violent and serious crime increased by 5.6%, recording 14,022 crimes, 741 more cases than in 2022, the highest figure since 2019.

General crime also increased by 8.2% in 2023, with the eight Criminal Police Bodies (GNR, PSP, PJ, SEF, Maritime Police, ASAE, Tax Authority and Military Judiciary Police) receiving 371,995 complaints, 28,150 more reports than in the period same year of 2022, the highest value since 2014 (last RASI record).

The RASI indicates that the most relevant increases in the chapter on serious and violent crime are extortion, which shows an increase of 25.8%, kidnapping, kidnapping and hostage taking (+22%), resistance and coercion against an official (+13.2%), robbery by stretch (+7.7%) and robbery on public roads (+0.8%). The document states that theft crimes, in their different forms, are responsible for 64% of the total violent and serious incidents recorded.

The biggest drops were seen in residential robbery (-15.3%), rape (-4.8%), other robberies (-4%) and completed voluntary homicide (-7.2%).

Violent and serious crime rose last year in the districts of Guarda (68.3%), Bragança (54.3%), Viseu (36.1%) and Setúbal (26.6%), while the declines occurred in Castelo Branco (29.1%), Autonomous Region of Madeira (17.8%), Santarém (14.4%) and Leiria (6.1%).

Within the scope of general crime, domestic violence is the crime that continues to present the highest rates of complaints, despite having registered a slight decrease of 0.1% last year.

The crimes reported to the police that rose the most in 2023 were abuse of a guarantee or credit card (+67%), other fraud (+39%), drug trafficking (+20.1), theft in a commercial or industrial building no break-ins, escalation or false keys (+16.7%) and opportunity theft of unsecured objects (+13.4%).

Home theft with break-in, climbing or false keys (-11.2%) and motor vehicle theft (-6.8%) were the crimes that declined the most last year.

The document also highlights the crimes that have increased as a result of “police proactivity”, such as detention or trafficking in prohibited weapons (10.6%), driving with alcohol levels (9.3%), driving without a legal license (9.2 %), resistance and coercion against employees (13.2%) and disobedience (18.3%). According to RASI, only the district of Coimbra shows a slight decrease in general crime, with the biggest increases being recorded in Faro (+13.5%), Setúbal (+12.9%), Beja (+12.3%) and Leiria (+12.1%).

Inquiries into economic and financial crime increased by 28.8%

Inquiries into economic-financial crime, corruption and related crime increased by 28.8% in 2023, with the highest number of open investigations relating to the crime of money laundering. Among the types of crime, “malfeasance by a political office holder” stands out, where there was an increase of 138%, followed by “active corruption in the private sector” (60%), “economic participation in business” (58% ), “embezzlement” (58%), “laundering” (47%) and “abuse of power” (46%).

“In the opposite sense, it is noted that the types of insolvency, which fell by 15%, fraud and subsidy diversion (minus 12%), tax and customs crimes (minus 22%), active corruption in sport (minus 20%), corruption of political office holders (minus 13%), passive corruption (minus 7%) and undue receipt of advantage (minus 10%) maintained, in 2023, the downward trend already started in 2022”, indicates the document.

In relation to the constitution of defendants in relation to the types of crime, the crime of “laundering” represented the offense with the largest number of defendants, 20% of the total.

At the same time, with regard to arrests in the context of economic and financial crime, there has been, since 2020, a gradual increasing trend in arrests in this type of crime. RASI 2023 records 121 detainees (26% more), of which 74% are male. The number of defendants fell by 13.9%, reaching a total of 852.

The RASI reveals that it was in the category of “tax and customs crimes” – which includes tax fraud, receipt and smuggling – that a greater increase in arrests was recorded (plus 16%), all involving males. “It should be noted that, in 2023, arrests occurred at the level of “insolvency” and “abuse of power”, when, in previous years, the record of arrests in these offenses was zero”, the report also indicates.

According to RASI, 2023 confirmed trends already identified in previous years, namely the growth of computer crimes or crimes committed in the computer environment, criminal types resulting from money laundering, through the use of different strategies by criminal organizations, such as fraud with supposed acquisitions cryptocurrency and investment fraud, among others.

Hate crimes on the rise but in a reduced form in 2023 

Hate crimes increased in Portugal in 2019 and 2020, coinciding with the pandemic, and in the following years the increase continued, but in a more attenuated way. The document delivered this Tuesday states that “the majority of reported cases [classified as hate crimes] occurred in a digital environment”.

In the same chapter, dedicated to the crime of terrorism, RASI considers that until October last year the level of the terrorist threat pending over Portugal continued to be moderate, (corresponding to level 4, based on a decreasing criterion scale between level 1 – considered critical or immediate – and level 5 – classified reduced or low).

However, with the attack carried out by the Palestinian group Hamas in October and Israel’s response, there is a “greater complexity of the terrorist threat of an Islamist origin in Europe”, having been decided by the Secretary General of the Internal Security System , on October 20, 2023, “increase the generic terrorist threat level to level 3, classified as significant”.

Despite the threat level having risen, the RASI for 2023 states that “there were no concrete signs that point to the development of terrorist actions in national territory”. The Judicial Police, through the National Counterterrorism Unit, “does not fail to monitor the evolution of the situation related to terrorism and ideological extremism”, states the report.

The threat of the phenomena of radicalization, (violent) extremism and terrorism “remains at a level similar to that of previous years in most European Union member states”, he adds.

Investigations into human trafficking crimes and aiding illegal immigration soared in 2023 

Inquiries related to human trafficking crimes and assistance to illegal immigration increased exponentially last year, increases in percentage terms of more than 150% and almost 300%, respectively. RASI states that this trend of increasing the number of investigations for “human trafficking” and “assistance to illegal immigration” has occurred in recent years.

In the crime of “human trafficking”, with relevance to labour exploitation, the variation in 2023 reflects “an increase in percentage terms of 158%”, indicates the document.

Inquiries into the crime of “assisting illegal immigration” increased by 298%, and there are also new investigations into the crimes of “association of assistance to illegal immigration”.

The report notes that the significant increase in the two investigations is also related to the restructuring of the Internal Security System and the extinction of the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF), resulting in the transfer of powers to the Judiciary Police.

The increase in investigations also led to a high number of defendants being charged and detained last year, especially those detained for the crime of “assisting illegal immigration”. In 2023, reports about victims of both crimes also increased, with Portugal essentially being the destination country for victims (355 records).

Of the cases of alleged human trafficking, 84% are related to labor exploitation, in sectors such as forestry and coastal sea fishing, but mainly in agriculture and football.

Last year, 57 minor victims of this trafficking were identified , most of them associated with a SEF operation (Operation Eldorado) and especially boys with an average age of 16 years.

A total of 533 adult victims of trafficking were flagged in Portugal, the majority of confirmed cases associated with the same operation, men aged between 18 and 23 years old, mostly from Brazil, Colombia and Guinea-Bissau. The districts with the most cases of presumed exploitation were Braga (football) , Beja (agriculture) and Bragança (agriculture and forestry).

The data also indicates that in 2023, 57 (presumed) victims were admitted to the Reception and Protection Centers, of which 39 were male. The majority of victims were trafficked for labor exploitation (including domestic servitude) but other main forms of exploitation were sexual, forced begging, illegal adoption and slavery.

Threat linked to the far right increases in Portugal in 2023 

In 2023, Portugal recorded a worsening of the threat linked to political extremism, especially the extreme right, with the resumption of activity by neo-Nazi and identity organizations .

“In the field of political extremism, there has been a worsening of the threat posed by these sectors, especially in the context of the extreme right”, warns the document delivered today by the government to the Assembly of the Republic.

According to the 2023 report prepared by the Internal Security System, after a period of stagnation, traditional organizations and militants from the neo-Nazi and identity sectors “resumed their activity, promoting street actions and other initiatives with propagandistic purposes”.

“At the same time, projects and organizations were also created by young people that extend the reach of the extremist message to a new generation with a different profile”, says RASI in the national analysis relating to the last year.

This growth of the extreme right, particularly among younger generations, was largely due to the “effort developed in the virtual sphere”, which constituted the “main vehicle for disseminating propaganda and driving force for radicalization” , says the document .

This use of digital media has thus contributed to the proliferation of extremist narratives, which reach a wider and more diverse audience, RASI adds, warning that the virtual environment has also been the “main breeding ground for ‘accelerationists’, radicalized by exposure to propaganda, the violent universe of gaming  or even contact with militants from other geographies, some associated with terrorist cells or groups”.

‘Accelerationism’ is a tendency associated with the far right that advocates an “acceleration” of capitalism and chaos to “overthrow” the existing order.

As for the extreme left, the document indicates that the anarchist and autonomous movement also resumed street activity in 2023, after a period of stagnation, associating itself with mass demonstrations around causes that cut across Portuguese society, such as law housing or improving living conditions.

However, these movements had an “anti-capitalist ideological stamp”, resorting to acts of vandalism and provocations against security forces that aimed to “mobilize other participants to fight against the system”.

In the last quarter of 2023, the Palestinian cause was also supported by these sectors, through participation in demonstrations, but with no record of relevant incidents, says the report delivered to parliament.

Similar to what happened internationally, it was in the anti-capitalist environmental movement that greater radicalization was observed, through the repeated resort to illegal actions and acts of vandalism, as well as an “attempt to sabotage critical infrastructure” .

“The environmentalist cause continued to prove fundamental for the recruitment of young people to different sectors of the extreme left”, highlights RASI, adding that, in relation to the anti-system movements that emerged during the covid-19 pandemic, “they lost almost all their relevance” in 2023.

In relation to the analysis of an “Islamist-based terrorist threat”, some international events — such as acts of desecration of the Koran and tension in the Middle East — also “had some echo within Islamic communities” in Portugal.

Although no concrete evidence has been collected regarding the planning of terrorist attacks, “specific cases of support for Hamas and attacks against Israel and, equally, hostile reactions to the desecration of the Koran” have been identified, he adds.

The current international situation “favors the development of radicalization processes with a propensity for violence, which could result in the execution of terrorist attacks, with Portugal not being immune to this phenomenon”, warns the document.

Violence increases between rival groups of young people from neighborhoods in Greater Lisbon 

RASI also warns of the increase in violence associated with youth groups and young people motivated by rivalries between groups from different areas or neighborhoods in the Lisbon metropolitan area.

“With regard to group crime, 2,048 arrests were made (+13.1%). Regarding violence carried out within groups, there has been, in the post-confinement period, an increase in conflict and the level of violence used”, states the document.

The document highlights the dynamics arising from youth groups and those involving organized criminal groups, especially those dedicated to drug trafficking.

According to RASI, group crime, defined as the commission of a crime by three or more suspects, increased by 14.6% in 2023, recording a total of 6,756 incidents, the highest figure since 2014.

Juvenile delinquency, which comprises crimes committed by young people between the ages of 12 and 16, also registered an increase of 8.7%, totaling 1,833, the highest number since 2017.

In the context of group crime, RASI states, the suspects are young people aged between 15 and 25 years old, a phenomenon that has had considerable expression in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area.

“There continue to be some dynamics associated with rivalries between groups from different areas or neighborhoods of the metropolitan area. These conflicts are often referred to in songs and video clips from musical subcultures that feature hyperlocal and hyperpersonal references (specifically to a geographic area, particular occurrence, individual or specific date)”, reads the document, which highlights “the role played by digital , namely social networks, which present themselves as an extension of the group and the neighborhood itself”.

Regarding juvenile delinquency, RASI reports that throughout 2022 and 2023, some investigations and operations carried out by security forces and services were carried out, but even so there must be “a considerable number of black figures (crimes not reported)”.

The document also states that, in the metropolitan area of ​​Lisbon, it is in the municipalities of Loures and Amadora that there are the highest number of incidents and highlights the crime scenes close to shopping centers and intermodal stations, “thus enhancing the repercussion of news in news organizations. social communication and consequent feeling of insecurity”.

“There is also a trend of episodes (some unreported) in educational establishments, probably because the perpetrators know some of the victims’ routines and the establishments they frequent”, highlights the RASI, also giving an account of the groups associated with drug trafficking. , namely groups dedicated to retail sales, with a more localized presence near the main points of sale in the two metropolitan areas of Lisbon and Porto.

The report also indicates that there are a large number of violent and serious incidents on the south bank of the Tagus, mainly the Barreiro area, where there are attacks on physical integrity, kidnapping and kidnapping of individuals associated with drug trafficking.

Crimes linked to drug trafficking and consumption increased by 19.4% in 2023 

Crimes linked to drug trafficking and consumption increased by 19.4% compared to the previous year. RASI also reports a “substantial increase” in criminal drug trafficking activity , as well as in the quantities seized.

RASI records a total of 37,947 kilos of hashish seized (+62.3% compared to the previous year), 21,721 kilos of cocaine (+31.4%), 41 kilos of heroin (-43.5%) and 91,054 units of ecstasy (+47.3%).

Regarding the number of seizures recorded in the 2023 document, hashish leads with 5,806 (+22.4%), followed by cocaine with 2,105 (+4.8%), heroin with 1,073 (- 14, 3%) and ‘ecstasy’ with 807 (+31.2%).

The document highlights “crack” (smoking drug) as having created some social alarm, with an increase in the quantities seized having been recorded in recent years . In 2021, 36.65 kilos were seized in four seizures, the following year 4,925 kilos in 325 seizures and in 2023, 7,113 kilos were seized in 293 seizures.

As for those involved in trafficking and consumption, 9,001 were registered, of which 7,565 ended up being arrested. Among those detained, 6,884 were men, of which 6,098 were aged 21 or over and among them 5,986 were Portuguese nationals. The operations carried out by the police authorities led to the seizure of 4.51 million euros, 16 high-speed boats, 236 light vehicles, 2,344 cell phones and 130 weapons of various types.

The report points out that, similarly to what happens in other countries, it has also been noted in Portugal that different criminal organizations seek to infiltrate existing port and airport infrastructures in the national territory, through the recruitment of workers from different entities, namely service providers.

“The objective is to be able, with the support of such workers, to create what we can call true ‘green lanes’ for the entry of large quantities of drugs into national territory and, concomitantly, into the European space”, highlights the document, which also highlights that, in addition to large-scale trafficking, there is also “an increasing use of postal services and postal parcels, through which criminal organizations deliver drugs to the final consumer (especially synthetic ones)”.