Crime in Portugal

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Portuguese police walk a street in Lisbon.

Crime rates in Portugal are generally low, and most crimes are non-violent.[1]

Portugal's security and peace indicators compare favourably to those of other countries. According to the 2020 Global Peace Index rankings, Portugal is the 3rd most peaceful country in the world.[2] According to the 2019 Global Finance Safety Index rankings, Portugal is the 4th safest country in the world.[3]

Crime in Portugal is combated by multiple cooperating government agencies, including the Ministry of Internal Administration, Maritime Authority System, Ministry of Justice, Economic and Food Safety Authority, and the Informations System of the Portuguese Republic, among others.[4] Portugal has been a member of the International Criminal Police Organisation (ICPO), commonly known as INTERPOL since 1930.[5]

Crime by Type[edit]


In 2016, Portugal had a murder rate of 0.6 per 100,000 population.[6] There were a total of 63 murders in Portugal in 2016.[6]


Transparency International ranks Portugal 33rd out of 179 countries surveyed in its 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index.[7] The agency's 2016 Global Corruption Barometer revealed that 2% of people paid a bribe within the last 12 months to access basic services (1% for public clinics and health centres, and 1% for police), among the lowest levels in Europe. The highest perception of corruption among the public was that of Members of Parliament: 33%, followed by government officials: 25%, and lastly police: 14%.[8]

Organized Crime[edit]

Portugal became a destination for several thousand emigrants from diverse locations around the globe (in particular from Eastern Europe, Brazil and the former Portuguese territories in Africa - the PALOP countries). With the development and modernization of the economy within the globalization process, corporate crime, financial crime, and corruption are increasingly important issues.[9]

Hate Crime[edit]

Racially motivated hate crimes have been increasing in Portugal; In 2019, there were 436 complaints related to racism lodged with The Portuguese Commission for Equality and Against Racial Discrimination (official abbreviation "CICDR"; Portuguese; Comissão para a Igualdade e Contra a Discriminação Racial), an increase of 26% from the previous year.[10]


Pickpockets and purse snatchers are present in crowded popular tourist sites, restaurants, transportation hubs and on public transportation in the largest cities, especially within the Lisbon and Porto metropolitan areas. While thieves may operate anywhere, the largest number of reports of theft received by the authorities are usually from heavily populated areas and major tourist destinations.[11]

By Location[edit]

Portugal's largest metropolitan areas of Lisbon and Porto are the main sources of both petty and violent crime.[11]

  • Greater Lisbon: Theft is widespread in tourist destinations in the Greater Lisbon area such as the towns of Sintra, Cascais, and Mafra. Casal Ventoso, a neighbourhood of Lisbon where drug traffickers and drug users used to gather, was demolished in response to its increasingly unsavoury reputation. Amadora, the municipality where Buraca and the feared Cova da Moura neighbourhood is located, is a stopping point for many of the displaced people of the former Casal Ventoso, and Marvila (a parish in eastern area of the Lisbon municipality), neighbourhoods. Some areas of the municipalities of Odivelas, Loures and Vila Franca de Xira around the Portuguese capital also have a higher incidence of crime. Automobile break-ins sometimes occur in parking areas at tourist attractions and near restaurants. There are reports of organized crime and gangs.
  • Greater Porto: There have been reports of theft and violent crime in the area. Some places such as train stations, the Ribeira neighbourhood in Porto, as well as some areas of the Gondomar and Valongo municipalities have been especially problematic. There are reports of organized crime and gangs.
  • Algarve: There are few reports of organized crime or gangs, however, as a major centre of international tourism, and located in a corner of Europe geographically close to Northern Africa, the region has been noted for the growing number of cases related to drug trafficking. Pickpockets and other petty criminals exist in moderate numbers (e.g. in Faro). A wave of violent crime targeting wealthy foreign expatriates and tourists residing in the region was noted since the late 2000s economic crisis, which brought decreasing economic opportunities for African, Eastern European and South American immigrants, and a rise in the number of unemployed Portuguese.
  • Azores (archipelago): Pickpocketing and purse snatching are not common occurrences in the Azores. There are no reports of organized crime or gangs.
  • Madeira (archipelago): Pickpocketing, while infrequent, may occur in some areas of Funchal, such as at Pico do Arieiro, Mercado dos Lavradores, Zona Velha (near the cable car), Pico do Arieiro, Old Town, and Santa Catarina Park.[12]

Other cities where some violent crime occurs are Aveiro, Braga and Coimbra.

Regions such as Setúbal, Alentejo and Ribatejo are the safest areas next to Lisbon, with lower crime levels compared to the capital.

Crime Dynamics[edit]

The crime rate rose in the 1990s, reaching an all-time high during much of the decade. It still is low compared to other developed countries, and has decreased substantially beginning in the 2000s. Violent crime also rose during the same period and reached record highs before falling.[13][14][15]


Victims of a crime must report to the nearest police department. The national telephone emergency number is 112, which is used throughout the entire European Union. The law enforcement system assists victims, helping them to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how further legal procedures could be used.

Although the investigation and prosecution of crimes is the responsibility of local authorities, which include main police forces such as the Polícia Judiciária (criminal investigation police), the Polícia de Segurança Pública (national public security police), and the Guarda Nacional Republicana (gendarmerie), officers can help the victim to understand the criminal justice process, and find an attorney if necessary. Portugal has a crime victim's assistance program, administered through an organization known as the Portuguese Association for Victim Support (official abbreviation "APAV"; Portuguese; Associação Portuguesa de Apoio à Vítima).[11]

Tolerance of Drugs[edit]

Portugal has arguably the most liberal laws concerning the possession and use of illicit drugs in the Western world. In 2001 Portugal decriminalised possession of effectively all drugs that are still illegal in other developed nations including, but not limited to, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and LSD. However while drug consumption is not a crime, it is considered an illness, and people who use drugs are in most cases required to undergo rehabilitation. While possession is not a crime, trafficking and possession of amounts greater than "10 days worth of personal use" are still punishable by jail time and fines.[16]

See Also[edit]


  1. ^ "Safety and security - Portugal travel advice". GOV.UK. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  2. ^ "Global indexes". Vision of Humanity. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  3. ^ January 23; Getzoff, 2019 Author: Marc. "Global Finance Magazine - World's Safest Countries 2019". Global Finance Magazine. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  4. ^ "Police in Portugal | Safe Communities Portugal". Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  5. ^ "Portugal". Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  6. ^ a b Global Study on Homicide. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2013.
  7. ^ "Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 for Portugal". Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  8. ^ "Results - Europe and Central Asia - 9th Edition - GCB". Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  9. ^ People & Power, Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera (March 2008)
  10. ^ Lisbon, Mia Alberti in (28 September 2020). "Portugal records surge in racist violence as far right rises". the Guardian. Retrieved 26 February 2021.
  11. ^ a b c US Department of State, TRAVEL.STATE.GOV - Portugal Archived 24 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine, US Department of State
  12. ^ "16 Tourist targeted scams in Portugal". Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  13. ^ (in Portuguese) "Portugal surge em terceiro lugar no ranking dos países da União Europeia (UE) onde mais aumentou o número de crimes violentos e de roubos na década de 1995 a 2005.", Licínio Lima, Crescem o roubo e crime violento Archived 7 July 2012 at, Diário de Notícias (27 November 2007)
  14. ^ Distribuição da evolução global - Todos os Departamentos Archived 1 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Polícia de Segurança Pública
  15. ^ "The greatest rises were in France, Greece and Portugal (16%),...", International Review of Crime Statistics, International Review of Crime Statistics
  16. ^ Soares, Eduardo (July 2016). "Decriminalization of Narcotics: Portugal". Retrieved 24 February 2021.

External Links[edit]