The hot weather is here, tourism is up and with crime rates falling by 5% in the first three months of this year compared to the same period last year, everyone is happy!
The summer brings with it some challenges in terms of safety and security, so it is hoped that the tips in the article will be of assistance.
Beach car parks
Beaches are a lovely place to relax, but for some criminals these provide an ideal place to commit crime. Although crime levels have decreased in recent years, the theft of items from cars parked close to beaches is something to look out for and is something that is preventable. Don’t forget that hire cars are easy to identify due to the company’s commercial sticker being prominently displayed.
Prevention starts from the time you leave your home or hotel. Firstly, is it really necessary to take your Rolex watch and all your credit cards to the beach? After all, a street vendor selling belts does not normally accept a credit card! Leave these items in the hotel safe or safe at home.
For those items you need to bring, please ensure that they are not left on view in your car. It is better to take these with you to the beach rather than leave them in the car, simply because the likelihood of crime is greater in car parks. Ensure that the car doors and windows are locked before you go to the beach.
When you remove items from the boot, do not let people observe you transferring items to your beach bag. Be aware of people approaching you when loading and unloading in an attempt to distract you and then make off with your car.
On the beach
It is good advice not to be too far away from others. When setting out your towel, try not to unpack valuable items. When paying for items on the beach, it is better to take small amounts of money from your pocket rather that produce your purse or wallet.
When alone on the beach, keep your valuables in a bag and use this as a pillow. If you fall asleep then it makes it difficult to steal items unnoticed.
Again, if alone and need to go into the sea, it is normally a good idea to ask someone close by who appears trustworthy (families are a good bet) if they would mind keeping an eye on your belongings for a short while and then return the favour later.
As a last resort, if you do have some valuables, keep them either on your person, in a waterproof pouch when you go for a swim or hidden in your bag where it can be seen by you from close by.
For those travelling to Lisbon, like other cities there is a risk of pickpockets in certain areas such as the 28 Tram and Cais do Sodré. This is not peculiar to Lisbon and, in fact, there are many other cities in Europe where this is a far greater problem. In fact, the PSP have undertaken a great deal of work to tackle this, but with increasing tourism comes increasing pickpocketing activity. In crowded places it is simply wise to be aware that the problem exists and take simple measures as shown in this guide to reduce the risk.
Another issue is the selling of fake drugs. In some areas where there are tourists they are approached by sellers, usually gypsies, offering hashish. Nearly always this is fake, i.e. dried bay leaves!
Also, the hot weather means favourable conditions for the possible occurrence and spread of forest fires. We are in the critical fire period and this means that in the rural areas you should not: burn fires or light open fires for recreational reasons; use burning and combustion equipment for lighting or cooking food; burn cut and piled woods; release of lanterns or balloons with burning wick or other type of rocket or use naked flames of any kind. For those wishing to light barbecues in rural areas, this should be confined to designated areas or if in gardens well away from grass or bushes. It is a good idea to have a fire extinguisher or water supply handy.
Safety and health
Recently we have seen hotter than normal temperatures approaching 40°C or more. Care has to be taken in such heat to avoid dehydration or even worse. The Director General of Health has issued the following guidelines to help avoid health issues during high temperatures and heatwaves, which include: use fresh air or conditioned environments; avoid direct sunlight, especially between 11am and 6pm; increase your intake of water; pay special attention to groups most vulnerable to heat – the chronically ill, the elderly, children and pregnant women; use sunscreen with a factor equal to or greater than 30 and renew its application twice every two hours; and most certainly avoid activities that require great physical effort.
This time of the year is when the UV is at its highest. The scale used by the government goes from 0 up to 11 which is extreme. For most days throughout the summer it will be around 10 or 11. This can be monitored through the website www.ipma.pt. General government advice is to limit your exposure to the sun and take particular care of children and the elderly.
Leaving children and pets in parked cars
Did you know that when the temperature is 35°C outside, it can rise to over 60°C inside a car?
In the USA, an average of 40 children left in cars die each year as a result of heatstroke. There are no figures for pets, but in the UK the RSPCA receive around 6,000 reports from people who come across animals anguishing inside cars in the heat.
It goes without saying that children should never be left alone in parked cars anyway, but it is a fact that this does happen. Leaving a pet in a car is more prevalent. Slightly opening the window makes little difference.
Reporting emergencies and non-emergencies
If unfortunately you do experience a crime or medical emergency, the emergency number is 112. There are also several other emergency numbers, such as for poisoning, and these can be found on the Safe Communities Portugal website. If you are a victim of theft, it is important, even for insurance purposes, to report it to police before returning home.
More details and advice on all these subjects can be found on the Safe Communities websites and Facebook.
|| Crowded places – crime prevention tips
▪ If someone bumps into you, check to see if your valuables are still there.
▪ Leave the valuables and money you don’t need at your hotel room, preferably in a safe.
▪ Be particularly alert when boarding and alighting from crowded public transport, such as the metro or trams, particularly route 28 in Lisbon.
▪ Be alert, especially in crowded spaces or when people invade your personal space.
▪ Carry money and passport in separate places, so that losing one doesn’t mean losing the other as well.
▪ Wear bags in front of you, not at the rear or side.
▪ Deep-front trouser pockets offer more protection than back pockets.
▪ Dress inconspicuously so as not to draw attention to yourself as a “rich foreigner”.
▪ Attach your wallet to a chain, wear a money belt under your clothes, or an inside jacket pocket with a zip.
▪ Above all, do not flash your valuables around.
By David Thomas
David Thomas is a former Assistant Commissioner of the Hong Kong Police, consultant to INTERPOL and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. In October 2011 he founded Safe Communities Algarve an on-line platform www.safecommunitiesalgarve.com here in the Algarve to help the authorities and the community prevent crime. It is now registered as Associação SCP Safe Communities Portugal, the first national association of its type in Portugal, with a new website www.safecommunitiesportugal.com launched in May 2015. He can be contacted at email@example.com, or on 913045093 or at www.facebook.com/scalgarve