Report   DETAILS

Portugal 2011 Crime and Safety Report

Europe > Portugal

Portugal 2011 OSAC Crime and Safety Report

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Crime Threats 

Each spring, the Portuguese Ministry of Internal Administration publishes a comprehensive security report that contains detailed information on the state of law enforcement along with criminal analysis and statistics.  The current report is on the Ministry’s webpage,  Portugal continues to see a steady rise in a majority of its crime categories, including violent crime.  

Vice activities, including gambling, prostitution, and narcotics exist, but for those who take basic security precautions, Portugal is a low threat country.  Petty thefts such as pickpockets, smash and grab, residential and business burglaries, and drug offenses are more prevalent in the larger urban areas.

Law enforcement in Portugal is divided among several policing organizations and government ministries. Each is competent, has generally well-trained staff, and have reasonably equipped units.  However, each is challenged financially and often struggles with competing needs.  Criminal investigations are prioritized and often subject to availability of resources. 

Road Safety

Highways in Portugal are exceptional, and secondary roads are generally of good quality and well maintained.  Traffic enforcement in Portugal, however, is limited and ineffective.  As such, motorists often drive excessively fast and violate traffic codes.  Particularly problematic are failures to properly merge, yield, and safely change lanes.  High speed and unskilled drivers contribute to spectacular accidents including rollovers and multi-vehicles, often resulting in serious injuries or fatalities.  According to national statistics, in 2009, there were 156,997 reported accidents with 768 fatalities and 46,745 injuries.  Lower speed accidents predominantly occur in the cities and urban areas, and particular caution should be exercised when traversing intersections, as motorists often accelerate in an attempt to beat the traffic lights. While traffic congestion is notable and predominantly in Lisbon, Porto, and surrounding metropolitan areas, long queues during rush hours are commonplace; yet incidences of road rage are rare.  Drivers are required to wear seatbelts and drive defensively.  

Political Violence

Historical perspective

Over the years, Portugal has had its share of political unrest, predominantly as a result of emerging from a long dictatorship.  In the mid to late 1970s, political rivalry led to some bombings and general social unrest.  However, in the last 30 years, Portugal has had very little political violence and no major instances of political protests or demonstrations, although there have been some national labor strikes and demonstrations to protest austerity measures and labor reform.  Protests are generally well organized, non-violent, and of limited duration.  During the recent NATO Summit in November 2010, there were small protests; however, those protests resulted in small number arrests, and there were no reported violent incidents.      

Regional terrorism and organized crime 

Portugal has no indigenous terrorist groups.  Organized crime is not a major issue, but small groups do operate in Portugal.  Eastern European criminal organizations are present and predominantly engaged in vice related criminal activity, including extortion. 

Gang activities are generally limited to immigrant ethnic groups and focused on narcotics, petty crimes, and turf protection. 

International terrorism or transnational terrorism 

While Portugal has no indigenous terrorist groups, occasionally members of the Basque Homeland and Freedom separatist group (ETA) will safe-haven or hide in Portugal.  The group has stockpiled weapons, munitions, and explosives in Portugal. In recent years, Portugal has aggressively pursued ETA members in Portugal  

Civil unrest 

In the last 20 years, Portugal has had virtually no civil unrest; however, recent austerity measures, a low economic growth forecast, along with a projected increase in unemployment, are likely to result in non-violent civil protests.  

Post-Specific Concerns

Environmental hazards

Portugal experienced an estimated 8.7 magnitude earthquake in 1755, accompanied by large tsunami that killed tens of thousands and left the city in ruins. A 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the Azores in 1980 and caused property damage and loss of life.  In recent years, quakes measuring 3.5 to 6.7 in magnitude have been recorded throughout various locations both on land and in Portugal’s territorial waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Most recently, a 5.7 magnitude quake was reported in the Azores in December 2010. 

The implementation of improved modern construction techniques in accordance with contemporary EU seismic protocols for large multistoried structures are noteworthy; however, many smaller and dated residential dwellings do not incorporate such features and are more susceptible to collapse in the event of a sizeable earthquake.

Industrial and Transportation Accidents 

Portugal is a major international shipping destination.  Lisbon, in particular, has a large port situated along the Tagus (Tejo) River supported by train and commercial trucking; materials and products vary and include petrochemicals.  The port also services cruise ships and military naval vessels conducting routine ports of call.  A larger, more modern port has been established approximately 100km south of Lisbon at Sines.  Portugal is an active participant in the U.S. government’s National Nuclear Security Administrations (NNSA) Megaports Initiative, and the Port of Lisbon has enhanced capabilities for the detection of special nuclear and other radioactive materials in containerized cargo transiting the maritime network. 

There have been no recent large-scale industrial or transportation accidents reported in Portugal. Transportation, including civil aviation complies with applicable European Union standards. 


Kidnappings are uncommon and normally associated with robberies and domestic violence situations. 

Drugs and Narcoterrorism 

Portugal has adopted a strategy that views drug addiction as a health and community problem and as such, decriminalized personal narcotics use in 2001, opting for mandatory social and medical rehabilitation versus punitive measures. However, narcotics trafficking and distribution remain criminal offenses. 

According to the U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs 2010 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR),  Portugal saw a significant decline in cocaine seizures as shipments to Europe are routed increasingly through African nations rather than northern Atlantic routes.

U.S.-Portugal cooperation on drugs has included joint investigations with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and on-going cooperation facilitated by USG liaison officers at the Maritime Analysis Operations Center for Narcotics (MAOC-N) in Lisbon. Portugal is party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

Police Response

How to handle incidents of police detention or harassment 

The authorities are professional, and Portugal places a premium on privacy rights and individual freedoms. Reports of unlawful detention, intimidation, harassment, and graft, are rare.  If encountered, seek legal counsel for appropriate assistance. 

Where to turn for assistance if you become a victim of a crime and local police telephone numbers

The emergency number is 112.  English speaking operators are available on request. 

Medical Emergencies

Contact information for local hospitals and clinics

Calls to 112 are free from any phone (cellular or fixed-line). The operator will put you in contact with the emergency service that you require.

Medical emergency (ambulances)                             112

National Police/Security Police/Fire Service              112

Sea Rescue                                                                214 401 919

Maritime Police (plus pick-up boat service)                210 911 100

Maritime Police (24hrs emergency)                           210 911 155/49

Pan-European emergency number                            112

Contact information for local hospitals and clinics

Hospital de Santa Maria
AV. Professor Egas Moniz
1649-035 Lisboa                                                                    
Tel: 21 780 5000
*Designated Level 1 Trauma Center Hospital
**Accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB)        

Hospital de S. Jose
Rua José A Serrano 
1500-199 Lisboa                                                                    
Tel: 21 884 1000

Hospital de S. Francisco Xavier
Estrada do Forte do Alto do Duque
1495-005 Lisboa                                                        
Tel: 21 043 1000
*Designated Level 1 Trauma Center Hospital

Hospital da CUF
Rua Mário Botas, Parque das Nações
1998-018 Lisboa                                                       
Tel: 21 002 5200

Hospital da Cruz Vermelha Portuguesa
Rua Duarte Galvão,
54 -1500 Lisboa                                                         
Tel: 21 771 4000                                                                                        

Air ambulance services

Helicopters and airplanes are operated under the National Authority for Civil Protection (ANPC), Portugal under the Ministry of Interior

Av. do Forte de Carnaxide
21 416 5100

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim


While Portugal is generally tranquil, travelers should exercise appropriate care when moving about.  Refrain from carrying (or displaying) large amounts of money or flashy jewelry.  Carry a cell phone, notify someone of intended travel plans, and include a detailed itinerary. 

In vehicles, store valuables and merchandise out of sight (i.e., inside the trunk).  Park in well-lit areas, preferably within public view. 

If you return to a parked vehicle and observe a flat tire, be cautious of someone volunteering to assist with the repairs. While the “helpful citizen” distracts you, an accomplice will take advantage to steal unattended items. 

Pick pocketing is common, particularly in tourist areas, and along trains and busses.  The best defense is to limit exposure to wallets, purses, and backpacks and above all, avoid unnecessary distractions. 

Small groups of adolescents occasionally (as a group) commit petty thefts and vehicle burglaries around common tourist spots (beaches, cafes, etc).

Areas to avoid and best security practices

In Lisbon and the surrounding area, avoid Parque Eduardo VII and Monsanto during the late evening and early morning hours due mainly to vice activities.  Travelers should also exercise appropriate care along select streets in the Bairro Alto, Intendente, Martim Moniz, Chelas, and Olaias neighborhoods.

In addition, problem areas include some resettlement neighborhoods in Amadora such as Cova Da Moura, Seis De Maio, and other locations in the Loures vicinity, namely Quinta de Fonte, where inter-ethnic violence, gangs, and vice activities are prevalent.

Further Information

Embassy webpage:

Embassy contact numbers: Country code 351

Regional Security Officer (RSO)                                21 770 2514/46/39

Marine Security Guard (MSG/Post 1)             21 770 2222

Embassy Operator                                                     21 727 3300

*Consular Affairs                                                         21 727 2499                        

*Consular information can be found at:

OSAC Country Council

Lisbon does not currently have an OSAC Country Council.