Crime in Brazil

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Detention in Brasília.
Police station of the Rio de Janeiro state police.

Crime in Brazil involves an elevated incidence of violent and non-violent crimes.[1] According to most sources, Brazil possesses high rates of violent crimes, such as murders and robberies; depending on what source you believe (UNDP or World Health Organization) the homicide rate is 30-35 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.[2] placing the country in the top 20 countries by intentional homicide rate.[3] In an in depth study on the status of global violence prevention published in 2014 by the World Health Organization, United Nations Development Program and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Brazil's homicide rate for 2012 was at 32.4, with 64,357 homicides.[4]

It is believed that most life-threatening crime in Brazil can be traced back to drug trade and alcoholism.[5][6] Brazil is a heavy importer of cocaine, as well as part of the international drug routes.[7] Arms and marijuana employed by criminals are mostly locally produced.[7][8]

Homicide rates[edit]

List of the Brazilian state capitals by homicide rate (homicides per 100,000):[9]

With roughly 21.8 or 27.1 homicides per 100,000 residents,[10] muggings, robberies, kidnappings[11] and gang violence[12] Brazil is one of the most criminalized countries of the world.

Homicides in Brazil are recorded by the DataSUS system. A reversing trend is the increase of homicide rates during the late 2000s, after a peak in the decade's onset before dropping. Bucking this trend are the two largest cities. Rio de Janeiro registered, in 2008, the lowest homicide rate in 18 years, while São Paulo is now approaching the 10 homicides per 100,000 mark, down from 35.7 in 1999. A notable example is the municipality of Diadema, where crime rates fell abruptly.

In 2006 49,145 people were murdered in Brazil according to the health ministry DATASUS, an increase when compared to 2005, when 47,578 people were killed. Total murders set new records in the three years from 2009 to 2011, surpassing the previous record set in 2003. More importantly, 2003 still holds the record for murders per 100,000 in Brazil; that year alone the rate was 28.9.[13] Note that police records post significantly lower numbers than the health ministry.

According to a global study on the status of global violence prevention published in 2014 by the World Health Organization, United Nations Development Program and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Brazil's homicide rate for 2012 was at 32.4, with 64,357 homicides.[14]

Petty crimes[edit]

Carjacking is common, particularly in major cities. Local citizens and visitors alike are often targeted by criminals, especially during public festivals such as the Carnaval.[15] More than 500,000 people have been killed by firearms in Brazil between 1979 and 2003, according to a new report by the United Nations.[16]

Express kidnappings, where individuals are abducted and forced to withdraw funds from ATMs to secure their release, are common in major cities including Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Brasília, Curitiba, Porto Alegre, Salvador and Recife.[17] Petty crimes such as pickpocketing and bag snatching are common. Thieves operate in outdoor markets, in hotels and on public transport.


Gang violence have been directed at police, security officials and related facilities, gangs have also attacked official buildings and set alight public buses.[18] May 2006 São Paulo violence began on the night of 12 May 2006 in São Paulo, Brazil. It was the worst outbreak of violence which has been recorded in Brazilian history and was directed against security forces and some civilian targets. By May 14 the attacks had spread to other Brazilian states including Paraná, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais and Bahia. Another outbreak of violence took place in São Paulo in July 2006.

Gang violence in Brazil has become an important issue affecting youth. Brazilian gang members have used children to commit crimes because their prison sentences are shorter. As of 2007, murder was the most common cause of death among youth in Brazil, with 40% of all murder victims aged between 15 and 25 years old.[19]

Youth crime[edit]

Youth comprise a significant percentage of victims and perpetrators of crime in Brazil.[20]


There was a sample done in Porto Alegre, Brazil that focused on 1,193 8th grade students. The results were 28% reported being mugged, 25% reported being chased by gangs, and 20% reported being threatened with physical harm.[21] This newer study then focused specifically on youth ages 12–17 years old that were incarcerated at the time of the study. These youth had to have lived in Sao Paulo immediately before they were incarcerated, and are "awaiting judicial decision", that means waiting for the judge to decide their release date. The results showed two different answers, one percentage was to the youth witnessing the violence, as the other was to the personally experiencing the violence. There was a showing that girls, more than boys, had more frequently slept on the streets and been more connected with peers engaged in risk behaviors. 94% of girls, and 96% of boys had witnessed some form of violence in the year prior to incarceration. As well as, 61% of girls, and 60% of boys had personally experienced some form of violence in the year prior to incarceration.[21] Seeing/being mugged, and being threatened with harm were the two most common reported forms of violence. Over half of the youth had been victimized by violence. Delinquent youth are frequently exposed to high rates of violence. As there may be a lot of information on high-income countries, the studies being done show that the rates of violence in low and middle-income countries are similar, if not even more extreme.[21]


Gangs in Brazil have a lot to do with Street culture. This is the way that individuals deal with conflicts. Typically challenge demands an aggressive reaction to defend their reputations. If someone does not respond in this manner, they are socially isolated. The gangs in Brazil are very territorial, and focused on their illegal business. Theft and robbery bring in small amounts of money compared to narcotic and weapons sales so it is less common for these gangs to get involved in petty crimes of theft or robbery.[22] The gangs here are interested in harmony because they do not want any contact with the police. They will even go to helping others in the community, with money and even protecting them, just to be sure that the police do not come around. The issue with these gangs being so rich and powerful is that the children of these communities then see this and want to be involved. Gang members then become a substitute for family and are role models because they have respect.[22]

It is most common for these gangs to be under a military command structure.[22] Each favela has one dono who is in charge of controlling the managers of a favela and the soldados in his territory. The latter protect the favela against other drug factions and the police. They are also responsible for taking over other favelas. The managers of a favela control the managers of the bocas (the places where drugs are sold in the favela). The managers of the bocas in turn control the drug dealers who sell the drugs in the area around a boca. Last but not least, there are children and woman who wait, like at the entrances to a favela, to signal to the others if the police or other gangs are about to enter.[22] It is normal to join at about 10 years old, and by 12 years old to carry weapons. These gangs are attractive to the children and youth because they offer protection, recognition, and career options that those who join could not achieve on their own. Favelas are now often controlled by juveniles and young adults.[22]

The concern here is of the strong ties that are between illegal business and politicians, police officers, the justice system, and the economy. Not all people are involved but all layers of society are affected because of corruption. Police are bribed to not disturb what these gangs are doing, as well as many of them are dealers themselves.[22] Also, the young children are carrying guns and may be nervous, aware of peer pressure, or on drugs and can become careless. The level of brutality and homicide rates have skyrocketed in countries with younger gang members like this.[22]

Drug trafficking[edit]

The primary drug trafficking jobs for children and youth are:

  • endoladores: packages the drugs[22]
  • olheiro and/or fogueteiro: looks out to provide and early warning of police or any enemy drug faction invasion[22]
  • Drug mule : carries drugs to others inside their body, these are unwilling members of a gang, and don't survive for very long.
  • vapor: drug sales persons[22]
  • gerente da boca: overseer of drugsales[22]
  • soldado: soldiers, armed and employed to maintain protection[22]
  • fiel: personal armed security guard for the "gerente geral"[22]
  • gerente geral or dono: owner/boss[22]

Also, avioes are titled "little airplanes". These are the children who deliver messages and drugs to customers. They are not described in the hierarchal organization, but they are very low/entry level positions. In addition, this position has the most arrests.[22]

Of 325 youth that were incarcerated, 44% of boys and 53% of girls reported some involvement with drug trafficking.[22] Selling and carrying drugs were the most common activities between both boys and girls. The most common drug was marijuana, followed by cocaine and crack.[22] From the study; 74% had used marijuana, 36% had snorted cocaine, and 21% had used crack.[22] Youth held low positions in the hierarchy and engaged in relatively low volumes of activity for short periods of time. The police are capturing the front-line players of the drug industry rather than the donos. 51% of youth involved with trafficking reported it to be very easy to obtain a gun.[22] While 58% involved in trafficking, reported it to be very easy to obtain cocaine.[22]


The penalties of these youth have intentions to withdraw the youth from circulation. As a lot of street culture crime is from children and youth. The main penalty is to be sent to these "educational centers", but the sentence cannot exceed 3 years.[21] The educational centers are comparable with prisons but are not called that because it is not an official form of prison. For youth that are almost 18, they get no penalty at all. This is because they cannot be punished under juvenile law, or adult law. And when these youth turn 18, their records are wiped clean.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Brazil - Crime". Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  2. ^ "Homicide Statistics 2013". UNODC. 
  3. ^ "Óbitos por Causas Externas 1996 a 2010" (in Portuguese). DATASUS. Retrieved 2012-06-05. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Drug in Brazil
  6. ^ "Vya Estelar - Cyber Drogas - Consumo de crack pode levar o indivduo a se tornar criminoso?". Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "The World Factbook". Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ Mapa da Violência 2013
  10. ^ "No end of Violence". The Economist. April 12, 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-18. 
  11. ^ BBC News "Brazil's evolving kidnap culture" retrieved 2007-08-24
  12. ^ BBC News "Gang violence grips Brazil state" retrieved 2007-08-22
  13. ^ O DIA Online - Rio no mapa da morte
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Violence mars Rio carnival dawn". BBC News. 2003-02-28. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  16. ^ Kingstone, Steve (2005-06-27). "UN highlights Brazil gun crisis". BBC News. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  17. ^ Travel Report for Brazil
  18. ^ "Gang violence grips Brazil state". BBC News. 2006-05-15. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  19. ^ Glüsing, Jens (March 2, 2007). "Violence in Rio de Janeiro: Child Soldiers in the Drug Wars". Spiegel Online. 
  20. ^ Heinemann, Alessandra (2006). "Crime and Violence in Development: A Literature Review of Latin America and the Caribbean". World Bank. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  21. ^ a b c d e Zdun, Steffen (2008). "Violence in street culture: Cross-cultural comparison of youth groups and criminal gangs". New Directions For Youth Development 2008 (119): 39–54. doi:10.1002/yd.272. 
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t McLennan, John D., Bordin, Isabel, Bennett, Kathryn, Rigato, Fatima, Brinkerhoff, Merlin (2008). "Trafficking among youth in conflict with the law in Sao Paulo, Brazil". Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology 43 (10): 816–823. doi:10.1007/s00127-008-0365-6.