Welcome address by David Thomas -President Safe Communities Portugal
The following is my address which I delivered at the above event.
“Presidente da Câmara Municipal de Portimão, Isilda Gomes, Presidente da Região de Turismo do Algarve João Fernandes, Angelo Marques representing the Ministry of internal administration, presenters, ladies and gentlemen – a warm welcom to this seminar.
This event deals with an important subject, namely at ensuring that the Algarve contines to be one of the safest desitinatiosn in the world. Although crime in the Algarve has continued to decrease, and has in fact outpaced the rest of Portugal over the last 10 years, we must not be complacent.
Last year in the Algarve we saw a continued decrease in overall reported crime. Significantly, violent crime fell by 7.8% compared to 2017.
What was noteworthy in my mind, however, was the fact that in some of our leading tourist destinations in the Algarve, the common types of crime where tourists can become victims, decreased considerably. I am referring in particular to opportunist crime, street robberies and pickpocketting.
I am sure we will learn more about this from the representatives of the security forces shortly.
When I formed Safe Communities Algarve as it was known then in 2011, it was with the support of Isilda Gomes, who was Civil Governor at the time. We recognized then, that the key to fighting crime lay in developing a culture of everyone working together.
We are also grateful to the support we received from the British Embassy with the Ambassador being present at the launch of our associaion and the support we have received since then.
Unfortunately the culture of working together is so often lacking in society.
Having spent 4 years with INTERPOL with 190 member countries, it was clear to me that the spirit of togetherness applies in tackling all major issues, be them social, economic or political.
Looking back over the last 7 years I have seen cosiderable improvement in how various enterties work together in the area of law enforcement, both national and international, engaging with the various civil organisations in order to make Portugal a safer place.
The Contratos Locais de Segurança ClS program is clearly a key driving force in this.
Indeed when I participated in the Urban Safety conference organised by the Minitry of Internal Administration, in Cuimbra in January this year, I was to say the least inspired by the many initiatives that are taking place within this program, both in the Algarve and elsewhere.
I truely believe that the CLS framework provides the impetetus for all of us to do our part by working together, to develop new ideas, engage closely with the community and for every one to become involved – beacause that is the only way to reduce crime and raise quality of life.
When we started Safe Communities Algarve it was at a time when violent crime was much higher than now. It was also during a period where foreigners living in isolated areas in the Algarve were being targetted by overseas crime groups. The perception by many in the foreign community and visitors then was that the Algarve was an unsafe place – I have to say with some justification.
Much has changed since those days, through the tremendous efforts of the security forces, and by creating greater security awareness, so that we can all adopt simple crime prevention measures. This off course includes our efforts to promote Safe Tourism.
By doing this in a positive and informal way, we will attract more tourists – for the simple reason that Safety is of paramount importance in chosing a holiday destination.
Safe Communities is proud to be a partner in the CLS program as it has enabled us to develop initiatives such this seminar today. We held the “Nighlife, Alcohol and Security Seminar” last December in Albufeira, which helped address some challenging issues which affect several tourist destinations overseas.
We have planned two more events in partnership with our colleagues from Regional Tourism Algarve, the PSP and GNR. These will be at Faro Airport and Mar Shopping on 15th and 17th April respectively. This will enable us to engage directly with tourists getting key safety measures across.
Our protocol with the Ministry of Internal Administration over the last year has enabled the production of some very eye catching and informative crime prevention material for tourists which are now available in tourism information offices. We have also expanded our Safe Communities Algarve Website, to provided crime preventio advice in 10 lanuages as well as other services to help tourists.
In fact I think we at Safe Communities Portugal have embraced the concept of CLS for some years. We have brought government entities together with the foreign community to tackle sometimes difficult issues such as: alcohol related crime; animal cruelty; fraud affecting the travel industry and cybercrime.
This has been the cornerstone of our development during this period.
Before concluding, I would like to say something about another threat that Portugal faces, and that is rural fires. I am very glad therefore that my good friend Richard Marques is speaking here today to share his considerable experience on this subject as it affects tourists.
Safe Communities Portugal has been closely involved in this subject for around six years through our protocals with the ANPC, at regional and national level. Since the beginning of 2018 we have been engaged in some 15 projects with government, particuarly in the area of communication.
As with crime prevention, the key to success in my view, lays in creating awareness in order that every effort is made to prevent fires and, should fires occur, that people know how to protect themselves. This off course includes tourists as well. This means timely and accurate communication at all levels in a way that people can understand.
Examples of our workin this area include the translation of the Safe Village – Safe People leaflets into six languages. We have initiated the production of Safe holidays leaflets circulated throughout the country, the translation of IPMA daily fire risk chart into English and the ANPC Notification of severe weather warnings to the public, which are now passed to all tourism entities in English.
In fact we will be addressing these issues in more depth on 10th May at a full day conference we are organising with CDOS Faro, and Regional Tourism Algarve – entitled “Tourism – Responding to the Effects of Climate Change and High Impact Events. This will include overseas speakers and experts from within Portugal. We will be publishing more details of this in due course and I encourage you all to attend.
Safety and Security are vital in providing quality tourism. More than any other economic activity, the success or failure of a tourist destination depends on the ability to provide a safe environment for visitors”
So we need to ask ourselves the following questions
Have we been successful in promoting this policy?
We recognize the importance of security, but are we efficient and effective at getting the message across?
This debate aims to determine and improve effective forms of communication to ensure that the Algarve continues to be one of the safest tourist destinations in the world.