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Judicial Police tackling Lisbon Gangs – 153 arrested  and over 400 searches conducted in 2021

Protecting the population, repressing and preventing violent crime against groups of young people throughout the metropolitan area is the objective of the Judicial Police’s (PJ) strategy. The secretary general of the Internal Security System (SIS) also created a mixed team that brings together police and undercover forces to combat the phenomenon.

During the last year, operations took place by the PJ in several sensitive neighbourhoods of Greater Lisbon. Out of the spotlight, dozens of arrests and hundreds of searches were made. The objective is to repress and prevent violent crime throughout the metropolitan area, within the scope of a strategy defined by the national directorate together with the Lisbon and Tagus Valley Directorate (DLVT) of this police to stop groups of young criminals whose activity had started to climb in the middle of a pandemic, since 2020.

In 2021, the situation intensified, not only due to the amount of crimes, but also due to the violence between rival groups – reaching a high point with the death of Rafael Lopes aged 19, in the Laranjeiras metro in broad daylight – but at that time the PJ already had its operatives on the ground and referenced dozens of members of these “gangs”.

In an assessment made at the request of the DN, the Judicial Police presents impressive numbers that demonstrate the dimension of this “war” that it began to fight. According to official data from this police specialized in the investigation of violent crime, in 2021 alone, 380 inquiries were opened by the DLVT involving members of these youth groups – which means that, at least, they made an equal or greater number of victims.

The result was a succession of operations, with more than 400 searches at home and outside the home, which resulted in a voluminous total of 153 detainees. Of these, 41% were in preventive detention and/or with an electronic bracelet.

Coming from the designated sensitive urban areas of the municipalities of Amadora, Loures, Odivelas, Cascais and Lisbon, these “gangs” consisting mainly of young people between the ages of 16 and 21 were responsible for dozens of crimes, robberies, kidnappings, homicides, computer fraud and possession of prohibited melee and firearms.

Types of Gangs

The PJ distinguishes these groups from the classic “gangs” of organized crime. In a general profile, taking into account the knowledge that was gathered from all the detainees, those who follow this phenomenon point out that these groups “are less organized, resort less to the use of firearms and, although there are cases of homicide, they use less extreme violence”.

As a rule, “they are groups that know each other from school and their victims are sometimes classmates, have family members with criminal records, their families are dysfunctional and, in general, single parents, have some connection to drug trafficking (small trafficking directed only to consumption)”.

They are also united by a need to create an identity, a sense of belonging to something, sharing music of resistance to the rule of law, anti-authority, with their own laws, such as RAP and Drill (hip hop genre, with violent content).

As the DN had already reported, the PJ has active inquiries involving young people from about three dozen of these groups. “The 700 Gang”, the “Boba 503”, the “300 niggers” (in addition to the 200 niggers, there are also the 500) and the “RBL Gang”, in Amadora; the “PDS Gang”, the “RDM Gang” and the “PMBrutoz”, in Loures; the “RDP 6225”, in Vila Franca de Xira, the “Five Kapa”, of Odivelas, the “FDL 2”, of Sintra, and the “AKJ” of Cascais, are some of the juvenile gang crime groups that have been in the PJ’s sights.

The activity of these groups began to grow in 2020, with the PJ reporting several developments, mainly robberies of people and commercial establishments, at gunpoint involving young people aged 17 – 20 years. “Immediately there was a decisive action by the PJ”, recalls an official source of this police that is monitoring this process.

The first warning sign had already been at the end of 2019 when aggression began to spill over into the rivalry between the groups and their activity began to involve greater violence, culminating in the murder of a 24-year-old student at the Faculty of Sciences, in Lisbon, who tried to resist the assault of which he was the victim.

Those responsible were detained, they were 16, 17 and 18 years old, and were part of Mem Martins’ “FDL 2” gang, according to what had been ascertained so far by the police.

In May 2021, the PJ detained 20 young people aged between 17 and 22 in an operation for “strong indications of the practice of crimes of robbery, kidnapping, qualified theft, computer fraud and possession of a prohibited weapon”, a group that, according to the official statement, was the “AKJ gang”, which essentially operated in the municipalities of Cascais and Sintra, where most of them resided.

Brag on social media

The investigation had started in December 2019 and started from the alarm that the actions of these young people was causing in the community in general and in the school in particular, and the authors, said the PJ, “disclosed videos of their actions on cyberspace platforms and on social networks, bragging about the crimes they committed and threatening victims if they reported them. Likewise, they also challenged rival groups to meetings aimed at fighting for control of territories”.

Operation “T3” – so called because the AJK’s “headquarters” was an apartment identified in this way by the people themselves – was based on more than three dozen investigations into crimes of robbery with kidnapping, robbery with firearms and blank weapons and qualified thefts, which occurred in the municipality of Cascais.

The first reported cases, reported to the PSP (and later all together with the PJ’s process) referred to thefts that could be considered trifle, such as cell phones, bicycles, motorcycles and small amounts of money, were it not for the aggressiveness involved. “Over time, however, its danger and violence increased with gratuitous attacks on victims”, says a police source who was involved in these investigations.

One of the situations attributed to him by one of the elements of the group is the stabbing of a young person at the Oeiras station. The assault allegedly took place in the context of a feud between gangs (the minor would belong to OneFamily, a rival of the AJK). On Instagram, the perpetrator bragged about the feat and promised he would repeat it. The PJ also has several videos in which members of the group threaten and provoke rival groups with melee and firearms.

Another case in which this AJK may have been involved was an attempted robbery on the train between Algés and Caxias, close to midnight, in which the victim was so badly beaten that he needed hospital treatment.

In May 2020, there were about two dozen that the PJ managed to count in the video surveillance images of a store in Cascais that robbed at 19:00. They violently attacked the employees and the owner of the establishment and when the PSP surprised them, in the middle of the robbery, it was received with a lot of hostility and resistance, with two agents being attacked while they were handcuffing the suspects. One of them gave one of the policemen a “rear naked choke” blow.

SIS join the police for prevention

Despite this resurgence registered by the PJ since 2020, the growth of the phenomenon did not reach the Annual Internal Security Report of that year. According to this document that gathers the criminal participations registered by the security forces, that year “youth crime resumed the downward trend that has been observed in previous years”, with 524 fewer records (-33.3%)”. The same downward trend is pointed out for group crime, “with 577 fewer records (-11.1%) compared to 2019”.

Even so, last November, in the aftermath of the death of the young man at the Laranjeiras metro station, which caused some social alarm, the new secretary general of the Internal Security System (SIS), Paulo Vizeu Pinheiro, signed an order for it to be constituted a “mixed crime prevention team for violent, serious and group crime”, an instrument provided for in the Internal Security Law to put security forces and intelligence services to work together to prevent specific criminal phenomena.

“Violent, serious and group crime, as a sociological phenomenon of a criminal nature, contains a very diverse set of deviant activities whose characterization, prevention and repression are complex and require a high level of coordination between the various Security Forces involved. Aware of the challenges of inter- institutional articulation associated with this matter, of the media attention given to events that fall within this phenomenon, which potentiate a feeling of insecurity in the community , the Secretary General of the Internal Security System decided, after consultation with the leaders of the forces and security services (FSS), create a mixed crime prevention team, dedicated exclusively to this category of crimes”, confirmed to DN the Cabinet of Vizeu Pinheiro .

The team, is composed of representatives of the GNR, PSP, PJ, SIS, and Directorate-General for Reinsertion and Prison Services, “focusing on the analysis of this type of occurrences in the metropolitan areas of Lisbon, Porto and Setúbal. A meeting took place in December and may in the future integrate other entities if this proves to be necessary.”

Report by Diário de Notícias.