Crime in Brazil


Crime in Brazil
National Force of Public Safety vehicles in transit.
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; the homicide rate has been steadily declining, but it is still above 20.0 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, placing the country in the top 20 countries by intentional homicide rate.[2][3]

Contents

Overview

The Swiss-based NGO Small Arms Survey says that, in light of recent improvements, Brazil is no longer one of the most violent places on Earth.[4] Kidnappings occur, but increased police know-how has somewhat alleviated the problem. Prostitution per se is not a crime in Brazil, unlike procuring. The Government of Brazil has recently[when?] increased efforts to combat child prostitution and sex tourism. In 2010, there were 473,600 people incarcerated in Brazilian prisons and jails.[5] Drugs are responsible for 85,000 of the total tally.[6]

It is believed that most life-threatening crime in Brazil can be traced back to drug trade and alcoholism.[7][8] Brazil is a heavy importer of illicit cocaine, as well as part of the international drug routes.[9] Arms and marijuana employed by criminals are mostly locally-produced.[9][10] New legislation has brought stricter punishment to domestic abuse and driving under the influence.[11][12] Thousands of human trafficking and slavery cases are reported annually, usually associated with sugarcane plantation or, in the cities, illegal immigrants from Asia and Latin America.[13] Crime rates vary greatly across the country, with a higher incidence in metropolitan suburbs and in border zones.[14]

White-collar crime is targeted mainly by public prosecutors and the Federal Police,[15] and receives new attention from lawmakers: the crime of money laundering was introduced in 1998. Corruption of public officials rarely results in criminal prosecution directly, due to confusing laws[16] (suspects of corruption are often indicted for associated charges). The Internet is also home to numerous Brazilian hackers,[17] while online hate speech, heavily penalized in the Brazilian Penal Code, eludes officers. Land crime is propitiated by bureaucracy and government tolerance, and conflicting ownership claims, particularly in rural areas, challenge the rule of law; deforestation, once rampant, today has sharply declined as negative incentives are imposed and satellite tracking is perfected.[18]

A lingering problem are human rights violations during the capture and custody of suspects, which were mentioned in a recent United Nations report.[19] On the other hand, criminal charges have been described as exceedingly lax, allowing violent criminals an early return to society.[20] The justice system is slow, largely because of loopholes that allow for numerous appeals.[21] According to the U.S. Department of State, a majority of crimes are not solved.[22]

Crime in Brazil is a common theme in the popular media globally, to the point that it is believed to tarnish the country's image.[23] Locals[who?] often complain that Brazil's fame as a criminal hotspot is hysterical, going far beyond actual statistical comparisons.[24] Various Brazilian organizations have protested against depictions of crime in programs such as The Simpsons, Law and Order: Criminal Intent and in the movie Turistas.[25][26]

Homicide rates

List of the Brazilian state capitals by homicide rate (homicides per 100,000):[27]

Current problems

Armored police car of Rio de Janeiro.
Police helicopter of São Paulo.

Brazil continues to have high crime rates in a number of statistics, despite recent improvements.

With roughly 23.8 homicides per 100,000 residents,[28] muggings, robberies, kidnappings[29] and gang violence[30] Brazil is one of the most criminalized countries of the world.

Homicides in Brazil are recorded by the DataSUS system. A continuing trend is the reduction of crime rates during the late 2000s, after a peak in the decade's onset. 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 city of Diadema, where crime rates fell abruptly.

In 2006 49,145 people were murdered in Brazil, an increase when compared to 2005, when 47,578 people were killed. The year of 2003 still holds the record for total number of murders in Brazil; that year alone 51,043 people were murdered.[31]

Some crime hotspots are the border zones, where criminals from other South American nations also operate, and the suburbs in metropolitan areas. The decline of homicide rates has been the lowest in the Brazilian Northeast, where higher statistics persist.

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.[32] 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.[33]

Express kidnappings, where individuals are abducted and forced to withdraw funds from automated teller machines to secure their release, are common in major cities including Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Brasília, Curitiba, Porto Alegre, Salvador and Recife.[34] Petty crimes such as pickpocketing and bag snatching are common. Thieves operate in outdoor markets, in hotels and on public transport.

Cases of piracy occur in some coastal areas of Brazil. Brazil has a long coast line with hundreds of bays and rivers. Most of these are believed to be without pirates. The more dangerous activities seemed to be centred around the Amazon river mouth and the region of Santos or Fortaleza.[35]

Organized crime remains a serious problem in Brazil. It is well established in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, and include criminal organizations like Comando Vermelho, Amigos dos Amigos and Primeiro Comando da Capital. Brazilian urbanization has driven the drug trade to the favelas of Rio. Often, gangs hire "lookouts" to warn members of upcoming law enforcement. The dense environments of favelas in Rio have helped gang members hide from police easily.[36]

Gang violence have been directed at police, security officials and related facilities, gangs have also attacked official buildings and set alight public buses.[37] 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.

In November 2010, there was a huge security crisis in Rio de Janeiro and some of its neighboring cities when a series of attacks against civilian targets occurred. Dozens of motor vehicles were burned by orders of the city's main criminal factions that control drug trafficking at the region in response to the government's newest security policy based on the occupation of Rio's slums by permanent police forces named UPPs

Police brutality and corruption are widespread.[38][39] Inefficient public services,[40][41][42] especially those related to security, education and health, severely affect quality of life.

Efforts to combat crime

The National Security Force

The National Public Security Force (NPSF) was established in June 2004 by the Ministry of Justice, to act in emergency situations. The NPSF is controlled by the National Security Bureau (Secretaria Nacional de Segurança) and brings together the best police states and the Federal Police. This group of elite police officers, similar to the American model of SWAT teams, was inspired by the peace forces of the United Nations (UN). With the setting up of troops, the federal government wanted to prevent the transmission of the Armed Forces to assist the state police in the fight against crime.

BOPE

BOPE (Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais, or Special Police Operations Battalion), is the elite group of the Military Police. BOPE's exist in the states of Santa Catarina, Rio de Janeiro and in many others. The most famous or infamous BOPE, is the BOPE-PMRJ (PMRJ being the 'Rio de Janeiro military police). Their missions are: break barricades constructed by drug traffickers; extract police officers or civilians injured in confrontations; serve high-risk arrest warrants; hostage rescues; suppress prison rebellions; and conduct special missions in rough terrain such as swamps or mountainous areas. Other states in Brazil have different names for their special operations groups.

Penal Code

Police car of the São Paulo state police.

The Penal Code has been amended considerably since its adoption in 1940 as a replacement for an older code. The Penal Code has two sections. The first distinguishes between felonies and misdemeanors and outlines the individual citizen's responsibilities under the law. The 1988 constitution proscribes capital punishment, except in case of war. The second section defines criminal behavior more comprehensively, spelling out crimes against persons, property, custom, public welfare, and public trust. Misdemeanors are also defined.

In addition to the power arising from judicial warrant, decree laws empower the police to make arrests. These decree laws provide that any member of the public may, and the police must, arrest anyone found in flagrante delicto. The privilege of not being subject to arrest unless caught in the act of committing a crime or by judicial warrant derives from the 1891 constitution and has been included in subsequent versions.

Article 5 of the 1988 constitution states: "No one shall be arrested except in the act of committing a crime or by written and substantiated order of a proper judicial authority." It states further that an arrest must be communicated immediately to a judge who, if he or she finds the arrest to be illegal, must order the release of the arrestee. In practice, there have been many violations of the constitutional guarantees, particularly in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Military Police Station in the city of Lapa, Paraná.

The process of bringing violators or suspected violators of the law to justice usually begins in one of three ways. The first and most simple occurs in cases of flagrant. The second method is followed when illegal activity is uncovered during routine investigative work, after which a judge issues a warrant for the persons involved and arrests are made. The third method involves complaints from private citizens that, if borne out by evidence or otherwise deemed reasonable, result in the issuance of a warrant.

The handling of arrestees varies according to the nature of the crime, the nature of the charges, and in the past the social status of the accused. It used to be the case that an arrestee who held a university degree could not be held in a cell with those of a lower educational status, but had the right to a special cell and privileged treatment. Felonies that are punishable by imprisonment and for which the arrestee must be detained require thorough investigation followed by trial in an appropriate court. Offenses punishable by ordinary confinement of thirty days or less, or by small fines, usually are disposed of quickly at the lowest court level possible. A judge may direct that a prisoner be held in custody pending a preliminary hearing, or the judge may allow bail depending on the severity of the case. Prisoners may also be released on writs of habeas corpus.

According to law, within twenty-four hours of arrest, a prisoner must be given a copy of the complaint, signed by an authority and containing not only the details of the charge or charges but also the names of accusers and witnesses. To comply with these provisions, the police immediately must initiate an investigation. They must visit the scene of the incident, collect available evidence, interrogate witnesses, and compile a coherent account of what actually occurred. This information is presented as a police report to a judge, who then sets a date for a hearing.

The first step in the legal process is a hearing, popularly known as an instruction session, to identify the parties involved and to determine whether a punishable offense occurred. Except for misdemeanors, the instruction session is not a trial but rather a hearing at which both the prosecution and the defense are heard in presentation, rebuttal, and final argument. If the offense is a misdemeanor, the judge is permitted to turn the proceeding into a summary court and pronounce sentence. If the case involves a felony, no judgment is possible at the instruction session. If the judge believes that there is evidence of probable guilt, the accused is indicted and a trial date is set.

Mobile Police Station in the State of Roraima.

There are constant tensions between the Civil Police and the Military Police in most states, and sometimes these forces get involved in shootouts. The Military Police are under the jurisdiction of special police courts, which are independent of ordinary courts. The courts consist of five judges, one civilian and four ranking Military Police officials. Congressional legislation that would place the Military Police under ordinary courts remained stalled in 1995. According to Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1994, "The Military Police courts are overloaded, seldom conduct rigorous investigations of fellow officers, and rarely convict them.

The separate system of state Military Police courts creates a climate of impunity for police elements involved in extrajudicial killings or abuse of prisoners, which is the single largest obstacle to altering police behavior to eliminate such abuses." Punishment remains the exception rather than the rule. One study of police crimes against civilians in the Northeast, between 1970 and 1991, found that only 8 percent of the cases resulted in convictions. A separate study in São Paulo found that only 5 percent of similar crimes resulted in convictions.

In his first year as president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso sought to address some of the human rights violations in Brazil by unveiling a national human rights plan and creating a division within the Federal Police tasked with investigating human rights abuses. In April 1995, Cardoso established an interministerial commission to address the problem of forced labor. In addition, Cardoso sought to compensate the families of those who were killed by state-sponsored agents during military rule.

Separately the federal Chamber of Deputies created a Human Rights Commission within the Chamber of Deputies. The 1988 constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest or detention, limiting arrests to those caught in the act of committing a crime and those arrested by order of a judicial authority. Temporary detention is allowed for up to five days, under exceptional circumstances. Judges are permitted to extend that period. In practice, police sometimes detain street youths without judicial authority.[43]

Penal Institutions

The two general categories of penal institutions are correctional and detention. The first category includes penitentiaries, houses of custody and treatment, penal and agricultural colonies, and houses of correction. Of Brazil's approximately 5,000 penal institutions, fifty-one are correctional institutions, including twenty-seven penitentiaries, six houses of custody and treatment, twelve agricultural colonies, and six houses of correction. The second category includes military prisons, houses of detention, and juvenile correctional institutions.

The Federal Prison Department (Departamento Penitenciário Nacional - Depen) is responsible for operating the penal system. Depen is subordinate to the National Council of Criminal and Prison Policy (Conselho Nacional de Política Criminal e Penitenciária - CNPCP), which is under the Ministry of Justice. Places of detention include twelve military prisons, 1,580 prisons, 2,803 jails, and five institutions for minors. The separate women's penal institutions are usually operated by nuns. Prisoners in penitentiaries are assigned to work units in maintenance shops and in light industrial plants that produce and maintain the clothing and furnishings used in the institutions. In some minimum security agricultural colonies, inmates have their families live with them during their incarceration.

Prison conditions generally range from poor to harsh, and include overcrowding, a lack of hygiene, poor nutrition, and even instances of torture. In 1995 Brazil's overcrowded prisons held 129,169 inmates in space designed for 59,954. That compares with 23,385 inmates in 1965, nearly a sixfold increase. In 2010, the number exceeded 470,000. Often there are six to eight prisoners in a cell meant for three. The Ministry of Justice reported that thirty-three prison rebellions occurred in 1994, while attempted or successful escapes averaged almost nine per day.

Internal security in Brazil is primarily the responsibility of state governments. The Federal Police play only a minor role and are limited by their small force. The largest and most important State Police force is the Military Police, whose members are uniformed and responsible for maintaining order. They also serve as army reserves. The Civil Police constitute a much smaller force, and are responsible for investigations.[44]

See also

References

  1. ^ Crime in Brazil
  2. ^ "Brazil murder rate similar to war zone". The New Zealand Herald. 26 September 2006. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10402998. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  3. ^ Brazil murder rate similar to war zone
  4. ^ Reduction of homice hate
  5. ^ Number of people incarcerated in Brazil - 2010
  6. ^ Drugs and Incarcerated People in Brazil
  7. ^ Drug in Brazil
  8. ^ Drug in Brazil
  9. ^ a b [1]
  10. ^ [2]
  11. ^ Maria da Penha law
  12. ^ [3]
  13. ^ Slavery in Brazil today
  14. ^ Situation of Metropolitan suburbs in Brazil
  15. ^ White-collar crime
  16. ^ Entre Aspas. October 1st, 2009. Globonews.
  17. ^ Gibb, Tom (2004-09-14). "Brazil is world 'hacking capital'". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3657170.stm. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  18. ^ Land crime
  19. ^ Human rights violations
  20. ^ Problem of Justice
  21. ^ Justice system in Brazil
  22. ^ Brazil - Country Specific Information - Bureau of Consular Affairs
  23. ^ Os Turistas Aprendizes. Peter Burke. Folha de São Paulo, September 16th, 2006
  24. ^ [4]
  25. ^ [5]
  26. ^ [6]
  27. ^ Mapa da Violência 2010
  28. ^ "No end of Violence". The Economist. April 12, 2007. http://www.economist.com/surveys/displaystory.cfm?story_id=8952551. Retrieved 2007-11-18. 
  29. ^ BBC News "Brazil's evolving kidnap culture" retrieved 2007-08-24
  30. ^ BBC News "Gang violence grips Brazil state" retrieved 2007-08-22
  31. ^ O DIA Online - Rio no mapa da morte
  32. ^ "Violence mars Rio carnival dawn". BBC News. 2003-02-28. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/2806981.stm. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  33. ^ Kingstone, Steve (2005-06-27). "UN highlights Brazil gun crisis". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4628813.stm. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  34. ^ Travel Report for Brazil
  35. ^ Yacht Piracy - Information Centre for Bluewater Sailors
  36. ^ Hagedorn 2008, pp. 14–15
  37. ^ "Gang violence grips Brazil state". BBC News. 2006-05-15. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4771455.stm. Retrieved 2010-04-30. 
  38. ^ Human Rights Report "Police brutality in urban Brazil" retrieved 2007-08-24
  39. ^ Amnesty International "Violence in Brazil" retrieved 2007-08-24
  40. ^ FT.com, "Brazil ‘must lift barriers’ to new infrastructure" retrieved 2007-08-22
  41. ^ World Bank report,"How to Revitalize Infrastructure Investments in Brazil", vol.1, retrieved 2007-08-22
  42. ^ World Bank report, "How to Revitalize Infrastructure Investments in Brazil", vol.2, retrieved 2007-08-22
  43. ^ Crime and Penal Code of Brazil
  44. ^ Penal Institutions of Brazil