Brasilia Requests Federal Police Patrols to Fight Crime Wave

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Brasilia has called in the federal police to the capital city to help address an alarming spike in the number of car thefts and “express kidnappings” that has overwhelmed local law enforcement officials.

According to the Brazil’s National Security Director Regina Mikki, 100 federal police officers will patrol the city for the next three months. The officers will concentrate their activity along the Brasilia’s border with the neighboring state of Goias, where the criminal networks largely responsible for the crime wave are believed to be based.

In addition to a surge in carjacking, which appears to be part of a nation-wide trend, Brasilia has been plagued in recent months by a rash of so-called “express kidnappings.” These involve victims being temporarily abducted and forced, often at gunpoint, to withdraw as much money as possible from ATMs before they are released.

The capital city saw 463 incidents of the crime in the first three months of 2012 alone, 36 percent more than were registered during the same period in 2011. Brasilia police believe that 80 percent of these crimes are committed by groups operating in Goias, where they have no authority.

InSight Crime Analysis

The phenomenon of criminal groups shifting their operations as a strategic response to pressure from law enforcement has been seen elsewhere in Brazil. While security crackdowns in the country’s two largest cities — Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo — have cut the number of homicides in Brazil’s southeast in the past decade in half, murder rates in the north of the country have skyrocketed in the same time frame. As InSight Crime has pointed out, this is likely due at least in part to a “cockroach effect,” caused by criminal gangs moving to less hostile areas and this could be one reason behind the spike in Brasilia’s crime rates.

But the pledge to bring in the federal police to bolster the fight against crime would probably bring limited results, as Brasilia’s federal police force union has been on strike for the past month. As such, only 30 percent of federal police officers remain on duty. 

Although the recent crime wave has taken officials in Brasilia (which projects a more peaceful image than other cities in the country) off guard, recent events suggest that the capital city may not live up to its clean reputation. Along with his counterpart in Goias, the governor of Brasilia was accused in June of having links to high-profile criminal kingpin Carlos Augusto Ramos, alias “Carlinhos Cachoeira.” Both officials deny the charges.

Still, Brazilian officials are racing to clean up the country’s image to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, with Brasilia the site of the soccer championship opening ceremonies. Though federal policing may make the city safer for soccer fans, the criminals and their criminal wave, may just move elsewhere.

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