Crime in Brazil

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Detention in Brasília.

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 the source (UNDP or World Health Organization), Brazil's homicide rate is 30-35 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants,[2] placing Brazil in the top 20 countries by intentional homicide rate.[3]

Brazil is a heavy importer of cocaine, as well as part of the international drug routes.[4] Arms and marijuana employed by criminals are mostly locally produced.[4][5]

Crime by type[edit]

In 2015, Brazil had a murder rate of 25.2 per 100,000 population.[6] There were a total of 50,108 murders in Brazil in 2015.[6] Another study has the 2015 murder rate at 32.4 per 100,000, with 64,357 homicides.[7]

By Brazilian states[edit]

List of the Brazilian state capitals by homicide rate (homicides per 100,000):[8]

Murder victim in Rio de Janeiro

Murders increased during the late-2000s. Bucking this trend are the two largest cities. In 2008 Rio de Janeiro registered the lowest murder rate in 18 years, while São Paulo is now approaching the 10 murders per 100,000 mark, down from 35.7 in 1999. A notable example is the municipality of Diadema. where crime rates fell abruptly.

Total murders set new records in the three years from 2009 to 2011, surpassing the previous record set in 2003. 2003 still holds the record for murders per 100,000 in Brazil; that year alone the rate was 28.9.[9] Police records post significantly lower numbers than the health ministry.

More than 500,000 people were killed by firearms in Brazil between 1979 and 2003, according to a 2005 UN report.[10] Nearly half of those who died from gun violence during those years were aged between 15 and 24.[10]


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.[11] Pickpocketing and bag snatching are common. Thieves operate in outdoor markets, in hotels and on public transport.

A crime trend known as “arrastões” (dragnets) occur when many perpetrators act together, simultaneously mug pedestrians, sunbathers, shopping mall patrons, and/or vehicle occupants stuck in traffic. Arrastões and random robberies may occur during big events (Carnaval), soccer games, or during peak beach hours.[12]


Express kidnappings, where individuals are abducted and forced to withdraw funds from ATM to secure their release, are common in major cities including Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Brasília, Curitiba, Porto Alegre, Salvador and Recife.[13]


Corruption in Brazil is a pervasive social problem. Brazil scored 38 on the 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index, tying with India and Bosnia and Herzegovina, being ranked 76th among 175 countries.[14] Corruption was cited among many issues that provoked the 2013 protests in Brazil.[15]

Corruption is a serious offense[16] and yet is an important part of Brazil's politics. For years, embezzlement and corruption have been involved in Brazilian elections, and yet the electorate continues to vote for the same convicted politicians.[16]

Domestic violence[edit]

Between 10 and 15 women are murdered per day in Brazil.[17][18] A government sponsored study found that 41,532 women were murdered in Brazil between 1997 and 2007.[18] In 2012, 8% of all homicide victims were female. However, this is still far below the male victimization rate, in which men constitute 92% of homicide victims in Brazil as of 2012.[19]

Crime dynamics[edit]

An overhead view of Rocinha, the largest favela in Brazil; Rio de Janeiro, 2014.
Police officers in the favela of Rocinha


Gang violence had been directed at police, security officials and related facilities. Gangs have also attacked official buildings and set alight public buses.[20] 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.[21]

In regard to inter-gang conflict, gangs typically challenge demand 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 more specifically in Rio de Janeiro 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 Rio's 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. There are children and women who wait 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]

Cracolândia ("land of crack") in central São Paulo.

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]

Avioes are "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 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 educational centers with the sentence not exceeding 3 years.[23] 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[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Brazil-Crime" Check |url= value (help). Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  2. ^ "Homicide Statistics 2013" Check |url= value (help). UNODC. [permanent dead link]
  3. ^ "Óbitos por Causas Externas 1996 a 2010" (in Portuguese). DATASUS. Retrieved 2012-06-05. 
  4. ^ a b "The World Factbook". Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  5. ^ Unius, Zein (4 April 2014). "Brazil Bodyguard Protection". Brazil Bodyguard Protection. Retrieved 1 November 2016. 
  6. ^ a b agt. "UNODC: Global Study on Homicide". 
  7. ^ Staff, John Zarocostas-McClatchy Foreign. "As world homicide rate declines, killings rise in Latin America, Caribbean". 
  8. ^ "Mapa da Violência 2013" (PDF). 
  9. ^ "O DIA Online - Rio no mapa da morte". Archived from the original on 2011-05-11. 
  10. ^ a b Kingstone, Steve (2005-06-27). "UN highlights Brazil gun crisis". BBC News. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  11. ^ "Violence mars Rio carnival dawn". BBC News. 2003-02-28. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ Canada, Gouvernement du Canada, Affaires étrangères et Commerce international. "Erreur 404 -". 
  14. ^ e.V., Transparency International. "How corrupt is your country?". 
  15. ^ phillipviana June 14, 2013 What's REALLY behind the Brazilian riots? CNN
  16. ^ a b (, Deutsche Welle. "The persistence of corruption in Brazilian politics - Americas - DW.COM - 05.10.2014". 
  17. ^ "Brazil femicide law signed by President Rousseff". 10 March 2015 – via 
  18. ^ a b CNN, By Helena de Moura,. "Study: In Brazil, 10 women killed daily in domestic violence -". 
  19. ^ Watts, Jonathan (6 May 2015). "Latin America leads world on murder map, but key cities buck deadly trend" – via The Guardian. 
  20. ^ "Gang violence grips Brazil state". BBC News. 2006-05-15. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  21. ^ Glüsing, Jens (March 2, 2007). "Violence in Rio de Janeiro: Child Soldiers in the Drug Wars". Spiegel Online. 
  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. 
  23. ^ a b 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. 

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Overseas Security Advisory Council document "Brazil 2016 Crime & Safety Report: Recife".