David Thomas, founder and president of safety awareness association Safe Communities Portugal, on Wednesday received a British Empire Medal (BEM) in recognition of his services to crime prevention and awareness.
The presentation was made at the British Ambassador’s residence in Lisbon by Ambassador Kirsty Hayes, in a ceremony attended by high-ranking officials of Portugal’s various security forces and members of the international community.
Praise for Mr. Thomas’s work and achievements has echoed from the highest echelons of the country’s official entities, in a nod to the importance and need for what has become a bridge between the British and international communities in Portugal and its national authorities.
Safe Communities Portugal (SCP) is a registered, non-profit crime prevention association providing dedicated information and support services to the community.
In a statement, the British Embassy said “David and the SCP have become a key partnership for the consular team in Portugal for the benefit of UK and other overseas citizens resident in Portugal, encouraging better integration by British nationals and promoting cooperation with local police, health, immigration, and civil protection authorities.” It added that “the numerous outreach events organised by David and the SCP have been a catalyst in drawing the British / foreign community closer to the local Portuguese authorities.”
Mr. Thomas’s medal was one of two BEMs awarded to British citizens in Portugal in the 2016 New Year’s Honours List.
Among the 40-plus guests at the ceremony on Wednesday were the National Director for the SEF immigration service, the Commander of the GNR’s Operations, the PSP’s Operations Director, officials from health and safety authority ASAE and the ANPC civil protection service.
Commanders from the PSP and GNR’s regional Algarve branches were also in attendance, plus officials from various embassies who have supported the association’s work.
Mr. Thomas’s wife Jane and family were also present, including their eldest daughter Shelley who travelled from the UK especially for the event.
PSP chief spokesperson Intendente Hugo Palma acknowledged the “excellent work” carried out by Safe Communities, which he said “allows us to approach, through this partnership, the foreign community resident in Portugal.”
Describing the association as “an important vehicle for information and understanding about the reality of Portuguese security and police institutions” he said the service “also allows a rapprochement between the [foreign] community and those responsible for their safety, clarifying doubts, strengthening contacts and creating an availability of better interaction.”
The SCP founder, a former Interpol consultant and Assistant Commissioner with the Hong Kong police, said “I feel privileged to live in the fifth most peaceful country in the world and be able to continue doing something I enjoy.
“To me the award is very different to my police awards as it is an acknowledgement of voluntary work – namely time and effort one devotes without payment. More importantly, I hope in some way it provides inspiration for others, perhaps in retirement, to become involved in voluntary work to help the international community here in Portugal. There are many people here doing great work.”
He added that receipt of the award is also “recognition on how we collectively work together in ensuring a safe and secure environment, namely the community, police, embassies, government and the private sector for the international community – all as one.
“The fact this has been recognised by an overseas Head of State, namely HM the Queen, reflects well on everyone involved”, he reflects.
After founding the association in 2011, the crime prevention expert says he is “very pleased” with the way Safe Communities has developed since its launch.
“Initially it was to help the local GNR in the Algarve and support the community in dealing with some particularly nasty crimes”, he explains, elaborating “but now we are becoming a national entity serving other areas in the country, with a greatly expanded mandate.”
He extended thanks to “everyone who has supported Safe Communities Portugal, in particular the British Ambassador Kirsty Hayes for her support and organising such a memorable occasion, and Clive Jewell, British Vice Consul, who attended and has given tremendous support and help since day one”.
For more information on Safe Communities Portugal, see:
BY CARRIE-MARIE BRATLEY, IN THE PORTUGAL NEWS · 28-07-2016 13:45:00