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Violent Crime Increases Outside Brazil's Major Cities

  • Written by Marguerite Cawley
  • Monday, 28 January 2013
A homicide scene in Minas Gerais A homicide scene in Minas Gerais

Brazilian government officials have reported an eight percent increase in violent crime in Minas Gerais for 2012, pointing to rising security challenges in areas beyond Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

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The State Department of Social Defense (Seds) reported that violent crime rose 7.8 percent in 2012, as compared with 2011, in the southeastern Brazilian department. Over 71,500 violent crimes were registered in 2012, nearly 5,700 more than the previous year, along with 62 more homicides than 2011. R7 News noted that the department’s 2012 murder rate could be even higher than reported, as the Minas government does not provide murder statistics.

The departmental capital and country’s third largest city, Belo Horizonte, registered a 5.3 percent rise in violent crime and a 1.8 percent increase in homicides, reported G1 Globo, with violent crime defined as murder and attempted murder, rape and attempted rape, theft, kidnapping and extortion.

State Secretary of Social Defense Romulo de Carvalho Ferraz cited the drug trade as one significant factors linked to the rise in violent crime.

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Other regions of Brazil also reported high crime levels for 2012 and the beginning of 2013. Sao Paulo saw a dramatic 18.2 percent rise in homicides, thanks in part to the ongoing bloody feud between local gangs and the police forceFolha reported that the southern city of Araraquara, located northeast of Sao Paulo, registered a homicide rate of one murder every three days in early 2013, while Grande Vitoria, capital of Espirito Santo, saw a particularly violent week in December 2012, culminating with five deaths registered in three hours, according to G1 Globo. Meanwhile, in November 2012, the small northern state of Sergipe was reported by the same news source to have the sixth highest homicide rate in Brazil, according to a Ministry of Justice list that placed Alagoas, Espirito Santo, Paraiba, Para and Parnambuco, respectively, in the top five and did not include Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro.

Statistics pointed to drops in Rio de Janeiro murder rates in 2012, likely spurred by the deployment of special police forces (UPPs) in favelas traditionally run by drug gangs. However, militias responsible for invading the favelas prior to the UPP arrival have been criticized for pre-announcing the invasions, thus giving criminal groups time to relocate. Increasing crime in other regions of the country could be the result of criminal gangs formerly ruling Rio’s favelas moving outside the city in search of new territory.  At minimum, the data and news reports suggest the need to expand the focus of new security measures to include regions beyond the country’s two largest cities.

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