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Crimes in Lisbon: Intervention or Prevention


This report will provide an explanation of the high rate of crime in the Lisbon region, particularly in the municipalities of Loures, Amadora, and Sintra. This will also provide possible ways of intervention or prevention.

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There is a need for explaining crime in the context of criminal theory because through this we learn to understand crime and why it is committed. In the Lisbon district perspective, we tried to explain crime and why it happened through critical theory.

The critical theory is related to Karl Marx’s concept on the social theory, social inequality, and capitalism. The working class of the proletariat is oppressed and the bourgeoisie is composed of the capitalists who are mainly concerned with increasing their profits. There is conflict in society and thus crime will always be there.

The theory also states that law enforcement focuses on ethnic minorities and immigrants, the reason why a rise in crime is seen. But white-collar crime among the rich and the powerful is ignored.


Crimes, the causes of crimes and how to suppress this social malady are a few of the objectives of this paper. More discussion will turn our attention to criminal behavior and the theories behind the criminal and the criminal mind.

This paper specifically focuses on the prevalence of crime in the three areas of Lisbon namely, Sintra, Loures, and Amadora. The period of 2008-2010 saw an increase in the crime rate in Lisbon. This is contrary to the decreasing trend in the national crime rates.

The questions this paper will try to answer are the following:

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  • Why is there a higher incidence of crime in certain areas of Lisbon compared to other municipalities?
  • Why is there a higher rate of male perpetrators than females?
  • Why are the offenders mostly from one minority ethnic or racial group?


The word crime comes from the Latin word crīmen which means “charge” or “cry of distress”. Crimen is derived from the Greek word “krima” which refers to the words “judgement” and “conviction”. This concept has been adopted up to the present definition of crime. The original meaning of crime in Greek connotes a social-political error while the Christian meaning connotes “moral sin”. (Bakaoukas, 2005, p. 1)

Bakaoukas’s article is mostly concerned with the etymological and ethical meaning of the word crime, along with some evidence derived from the Greek literature or from the writings of Demosthenes, Aristotle, Aeschines, and others. Logically, our understanding of the etymological meaning of all words states that words do originate from the usages and meanings of the past. Every word evolves from its usage. The word crime evolves according to past events, during the time of the Greeks and the Romans, then until the Christian era up to today.

The Christian meaning, which is “sin against the will of God,” is different from the meaning of crime according to classical Greece and Rome. The modern term crime, therefore, comes from the Greek and Roman meaning of “judgement” which the word “krima” or “crimen” originates. Other words that derive from the word “crime” which means “judgement”, are discriminate, critic, crisis, criticism, and so on.

Gurr (1989, p. 2) argues that the history of crime developed between the period from 1400 to 1800, and incidents of crimes against persons increased from the 1960s to the 1970s in the United States and Europe.

Crime is a violation of the law from an established social order. Criminal law has been established by society – to protect itself. Violation of this is, of course, a crime. Crime is an event that relates to a socio-political context, and not a medical or clinical condition. (Vernon Fox, 1985 cited in Hagan, 2011, p. 10)

Hagan (2011, p. 12) defines crime as that which refers to a behavior and an act which requires punishment as instituted by society. Most countries define crime through their statutes and laws, and their definitions vary according to their own respective cultures, although the meanings are particularly the same according to the explanation derived from Bakaoukas (2005).

The different definitions are not too far from each other. But criminologists define crime with respect to the type of victim, the offender’s status in society, the object of the crime or whether it is a crime against property, a person, or an organized crime, etc. (Muzzatti, 2011, p. 119)

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To understand the complexity of criminal behavior, we need to study crime and the many aspects of criminology. Criminology looks at how crime is defined, measured and conceptualized. The causes of crime, the offender and the victims are some of the subjects in criminology.

Theories are a part of this explanation. Vold et al. (cited in Crowther, 2007) states that in studying theories, explanations for the phenomenon of crime are laid open. Beliefs and attitudes are some of the logical explanation because they make up the intellectual atmosphere of a particular area or community. (Schneider, 2010, p. 67)

In looking for sensible explanations of the causes of crime, criminologists also study crime prevention and what society has done to prevent people from committing crime. This will also lead us to the topic of punishment. (Bogazianos, 2011, p. 109)

The Critical Theory

In understanding crime and criminal behavior, we need theoretical explanation (Kraska, 2011, p. 49). This is particularly true in the study of crime in the Lisbon area. A theory that we try to apply in the context of the Lisbon ‘criminal situation’ is critical criminology. This is limited and reductive classical theory that focuses on the causes of crime with respect to the reaction and social change. (Okada, 2011, p. 31)

Critical theories are quite similar to sociological theories in context. These theories assume that humans create institutions and structures that in the end will constrain their thinking and activities. Critical theories also propose that conflicts dominate society; there are always conflicts against moral values, and since there are conflicts, there are crimes (Bohm and Vogel, 2011, p. 116). Siegel (2011, p. 184) supports the theory that in society, there are conflicts and competition that lead to the commission of crime.

Critical theory is related to the original concept of Karl Marx on the social theory which explores the many causes of social inequality in capitalist countries. Marx in this time advocated radical social change through a struggle of the working class who were used for production, to make goods or commodities and profits. The capitalist is concerned with making profits. The working man becomes poorer and as production increases, his being and humanity are disregarded. (Randall, 1964, p. 101)

Marx theory also argues that the state was established to maintain control (Quinney, 1975, p. 192) but the ruling class maintains control over society and the working class. Capitalism and economic injustice create crime. The capitalist system survives through the exploitation of the working class and encourages white-collar crime. Capitalism leads to the dehumanization of the workers; a capitalist society is composed of the upper class that is selfish and avaricious and the working class that is oppressed. (Salinger, 2005, p. 232)


This study used the descriptive-explanatory type which focuses on determining the occurrence of certain phenomena and explains why there are such incidents. (Gil, 1994, p. 46)

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In studying criminology and the different theories, an interdisciplinary approach is used. Methodology focuses first on epistemologies to form a criminological theory. From this, we can explain the fact and facts surrounding crime and the particular case that will be applied in this study – the case of the Lisbon district.

The study also focused on the literature, the statistics and information available, using the data from the Portuguese National Institute of Statistics between the years 2008-2010 and the characterization of the population of each city marked with large percentages of crime. The study intended to find relationships among the variables sex, ethnicity/race, in Sintra, Loures and Amadora of the district of Lisbon. The statistics show the problematic neighborhoods with high crime rate in the district of Lisbon.


The Lisbon Metropolitan Area, particularly the municipalities of Amadora, Cascais, Sintra, and Loures have been the areas of concern in crime. There are many factors for this particular trend. A study was conducted and revealed the following data.

Reference period data Category of crime Registered Crimes (paragraph) by the police authorities by geographical location and category of crime; Annual (2)
Geographical location
2010 Total 424150
Crimes against people 96729
Crimes against property 224752
Crimes against life in society 50700
Crimes against the State 6212
Crimes provided for in legislation of single 45741
2009 Total 427687
Crimes against people 97313
Crimes against property 227697
Crimes against life in society 52327
Crimes against the State 5343
Crimes provided for in legislation of single 44994
2008 Total 431918
Crimes against people 96524
Crimes against property 240738
Crimes against life in society 47190
Crimes against the State 5500
Crimes provided for in legislation of single 41964

In the table above, we have the category of crimes committed, the period, and the location where they were committed. ‘Crimes against property’ was the highest crime and this happened in 2008 with a rate of 240,738 but it went down to 224,752 incidents in 2010. ‘Crimes against people’ was up in 2009 at 97,313 and was down in 2010 at 96,729.

We can see the trend that with respect to other crimes, like the ‘crimes against life in society’, there is a downward trend, including the overall total for the three reference periods – 2008, 2009, and 2010. There can be reasons for this crime rate characteristic that we have to investigate.


In the figure above, we have a graphic representation of the crime rate for the Lisbon area, showing the percentage, region and crime category by year.

We have another data that is presented in Table 2 which shows the different regions in the Lisbon District with the highest crime rate – Amadora, Cascais, Sintra, and Loures. On the correlation of crimes committed with sex/gender of suspects/accused persons as variables (Table 3), it appears that men are predominantly the aggressors; however this number has decreased over the period. The women are less than half of the suspects but over three years, there increased the number of suspects who were women, tending this number closer to the men’s.

Table 2: The number of crimes distributed by municipality

Reference period data Category of crime Lisbon region
Grande Lisboa Amadora Cascais Loures Mafra Odivelas Sintra
No. No. No. No. No. No. No.
2010 Total 99357 8698 8667 8264 3180 4637 14706
Crimes against people 18896 1798 1889 2048 640 1000 3125
Crimes against property 58719 5275 5109 4224 1638 2515 8517
Crimes against life in society 10247 704 746 934 433 555 1308
Crimes against the State 1553 173 105 203 79 93 276
Crimes provided in legislation 9939 747 818 855 390 474 1480
2009 Total 101840 9085 9038 7257 3167 4936 17187
Crimes against people 18748 1762 1793 1748 561 1064 3765
Crimes against property 61712 5720 5509 3653 1582 2746 10474
Crimes against life in society 10374 711 586 838 450 535 1267
Crimes against the State 1401 105 110 177 76 96 222
Crimes provided in legislation 9596 787 1040 841 498 495 1456
2008 Total 105078 8342 9244 6849 3187 4983 16171
Crimes against people 18776 1455 1965 1605 551 1028 3676
Crimes against property 71061 5908 5904 4400 1683 3265 10327
Crimes against life in society 6671 319 542 377 351 335 902
Crimes against the State 1225 89 92 92 72 58 148
Crimes provided in legislation 7345 571 741 375 530 297 1118

Table 3: Crime suspects/Defendants charged in Portugal by sex

Sex Defendants/suspects identified by authorities on recorded crimes
2008 2009 2010
Total No. Total No. Total No.
Total crime by men/women 431918 427687 424150
Men 315969 303844 222040
Women 115049 123843 202110

As shown in Table 3, there is a trend of increase in crime perpetrated by women. Chesney-Lind (2011) argued that among adolescents, there has been a drop in the so-called “boy crime”. This statistic portrayed a U.S. reality and the reason is because there has been a drop in gun-related violence. (Blumstein & Wallman, 2000 cited in Chesney-Lind, 2011, p. 79)

Another factor is that the municipalities of Loures, Amadora and Sintra are reported to have at least 60-75% immigrants who were Gypsy, African and Brazilian.

Through the data submitted, it was established that there was a direct link between the high and increasing crime rate in the Lisbon region, mainly in the municipalities of Loures, Amadora and Sintra and the characteristic socio-cultural status of the same cities.

One factor is the large and concentration of these immigration mass in the Lisbon region. Loures, Amadora Sintra have 60-75% of the immigrant population of Lisbon (INE, 2011), among them ethnic/racial: Gypsy, African as well as Brazilian nationality.

Vala and Monteiro (2006, p. 207) state that “often the cycles of violence/crime are triggered by the disturbance and cultural inadequacy, loss or ambivalence of cultural roots (especially in the cases of the second generation, children of immigrants) and the still recent history, the Portuguese colonialism, then exploitation, marginalization and inferiority of African ethnicity (racism)”.

In Amadora, surveys found that crime is perceived the “main problem” of residents living in the area (54%), (Santana et al., n.d., p. 1)

The statistics also revealed that men tended to be more involved in crimes than women. Collon (cit in Arrigo and Milovanovic, 2005) says that men have a superior attitude to women, the same as saying that all social features are linked to “be man”. However these characteristics are associated with strength, fight and power. (Chesney-Lind, 2011, p. 79)


In the new social order, the working class is mostly composed of immigrants. Crimes are committed mostly in areas where ethnic minorities are concentrated, and by children of ethnic groups. However, this is not to mean that the new wave of immigrants tend to become criminals because of the way society treat them. According to critical theorists, these ethnic groups may become at the receiving end of crime prevention. Crime is perceived to be most common in these areas and so the police are concentrating their efforts here. (Greene, 2011, p. 95)

The police confront the young and the people in the streets who are prone to commit crimes. But the white collar crime is sometimes ignored and the police do not exert much effort and resources on this type of crime. (Parry, 2011, p. 64)

In seeking a more and just solution, society has to look for ways to apply a more just, fraternal and egalitarian community that is less subject to the wishes of the rich and the powerful. (Schneider, 2010)

The critical theory states that contrary to the assertions of the classical theories, social change is very difficult to itself, in postmodern societies. This is understandable if we consider that societies of the 21st century have different perspectives in terms of moral values and culture. (Crowther, 2007)

Criminology itself is inherent to the social and human development, therefore social development does not exist without the existence of socially deviant or unacceptable behaviour; it is directly correlated. This is called “Social Homeostasis”. (Arrigo and Milovanovic, 2005)

In classical criminology of Durkheim, Marx, Freud and Weber, the critical and deconstructive theory focuses on the hold of the powerful, such as the dominant groups, the rich and the moneyed class, who show their power by dominating the minorities, the ethnic and sexual minorities.

Marx theory states that there is a connection between alienation or estrangement and the money economy or capitalism. Private property and selfishness are interconnected. Man’s labour has put him into estrangement to himself. He is not anymore the human person who should be respected. He produces commodity. The economy depends upon him, in part. But the economy can depend too to a whole bunch of workers, or workers in the factory. If they don’t work, the economy will suffer, money will be devalued. But since the worker, for as long as he works is already devalued, he is estranged with money, an alienation of worker and money. (Marx, 1972)

People are now living in a different perspective but the philosophy, principles and theories over phenomena have remained the same. The concept of the global village was never in the dictionary of the past, but crime has always been. And crime has become sophisticated in the present set up. Criminals have become sophisticated and technology savvy. The police have to be ‘smarter’ in using technology to prevent crime; otherwise, they will be outsmarted by the criminals.

The prevention of crime situations as explained by critical theories, deconstructive feminist and anti-racist, should be through community interventions of several multi-disciplinary teams, working in social ghettos, and exploitation of ethnic differences (Vala & Monteiro, 2006). Even urban planning must be taken into account during the construction and relocation of ethnic minorities/immigrants.

There are more male perpetrators of crime as explained in the critical and deconstructive, feminist theory. There are more male perpetrators in crime in any area and this can be explained by the fact that male are more prone to violence than female.


Migration is a fact of life. This is one way of getting away from poverty. People from poorer countries immigrate to other places where they can find work and hope to improve their lives with whatever jobs the new place could offer. But there are repercussions. They try to live normal lives, accept whatever jobs are available, produce children and accept the living conditions of their adoptive country. The police concentrate their efforts in these areas because incidents of crime seem to increase in these areas.

In the study of the Lisbon district, the crimes against property registered an increased rate during the three periods. These areas are inhabited by migrant ethnic minorities coming from poor countries. Although there was a decrease in crimes in 2010, the number is not quite significant. The high incidence of crime could be linked to the high concentration of immigrants who are Gypsy, African and Brazilian.

The critical theory explains this phenomenon: police focus their efforts where there are ethnic minorities. These immigrants are the working class. But it is not conclusive that because there are ethnic minorities, there is a high rate of crimes. This was explained in the discussion on the critical theory.

Crimes can be controlled through the various institutions of society but cannot be fully stopped (Crowther, 2007, p. 348).


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