Turning a Social Problem into a Cultural Opportunity: the Crime Prevention Project ‘SOS Azulejo’
Artistic and historic ‘azulejos’ — as Portuguese ceramic tiles are designated even outside Portugal — do have an enormously important cultural role in Portuguese cities. In fact Portuguese historic and artistic ‘azulejos’ stand out in the world cultural heritage for their invaluable richness in quality, quantity, style, materials and techniques. Although this relevance is recognised by art historians, scientists, artists, antique dealers — and burglars — it is not generally acknowledged, favouring the massive plunder it has been inflicted to in the last twenty years. In fact, these ‘azulejos’ have been so present in Portuguese cities in all kinds of sceneries and for so many centuries that — paradoxically — the average Portuguese citizen no longer notices them: an endless quantity of urban ‘azulejos’ constructions needs conservation measures badly and the not-protected tiles are easily removed and stolen. Because the Judiciary Police (PJ) has the exclusive competence for crimes related to cultural heritage in Portugal, the PJ Museum decided to implement a crime prevention project against theft, traffic and vandalism of Portuguese historic and artistic tiles which is simultaneously a campaign for the conservation of this cultural heritage. The name of the Project: ‘SOS AZULEJO’. With the help of various public Partners (including other Portuguese police forces — PSP and GNR) and Partners coming from different thematic areas, this interdisciplinary project has reached measurable positive results such as a very impressive reduction of registered ‘azulejos’ thefts.
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