Country Listing

Portugal Table of Contents


Incidence of Crime

In general the Portuguese are law-abiding people who respect the virtues of honesty. In addition, social discontent has been kept low by emigration, which served traditionally as a release for social pressures in both rural and urban areas. Decolonization in Africa, however, brought over 800,000 unemployed refugees to Portugal, some of whom became involved in crime. Some other young adults and discharged soldiers, unemployed and unable to emigrate, turned to crime. Nevertheless, statistics on the commission of crime between 1984 and 1988 showed an actual reduction in most categories. Drug offenses, however, increased from 1,154 to 1,782. Portugal was an important transshipment point for narcotics because of its geographic position near the North African coast and on the air routes between South America and Western Europe. Indigenous drug use and production were not, however, considered to be major problems.

Violent crimes, though not unknown in Portugal, were rare. Murders were generally crimes of passion and only infrequently associated with robbery. Premeditated homicide was punishable by a prison sentence of from sixteen to twenty years, although mitigating circumstances often led to reduced terms. In 1988, out of a total of 513 homicide arrests, 205 were for negligent homicide; 331 of the arrested received prison terms.

Larceny was by far the most common form of crime. In 1988 over 41,000 thefts of all kinds were recorded. They included 12,800 thefts under aggravated circumstances, 4,000 armed or violent thefts, 7,400 cases of breaking and entering, and 5,300 automobile thefts. In 1988 nearly 4,000 cases of fraud and more than 17,000 cases involving bad checks were reported, although few of the latter resulted in court trials. There were 121 rapes and 165 other sexual offenses. A total of 10,800 persons were tried for crimes against the person, although only 73 of these were classified as serious attacks.

Data as of January 1993