Brazil’s Youth Violence Crisis Deepening: Report

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Nearly four in every 1,000 Brazilian adolescents living in the country’s biggest cities are murdered before the age of 19, according to a new UN report that illustrates how Brazilian youth pay the highest price for crime and violence.

The report by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), “Adolescent Homicides in Brazil” studies murder trends for teenagers in 300 Brazilian municipalities with more than 100,000 residents between 2005 and 2014. The findings chart a disturbing trend that suggests an already dire situation is only getting worse.

In 2005, 2.8 out of every 1,000 youths were murdered, an alarming figure given that the expected rate should be only slightly above 0 and certainly below 1, UNICEF points out. The rate remained relatively stable until 2012, when it began a sharp rise culminating in the 2014 rate of 3.7.

The report also traces the huge regional and socio-economic variances. By 2014, male youths were 13.52 times more likely to be murdered than females, and black adolescents 2.88 times more likely than white.

By far the most dangerous region is the northeast of Brazil, which registered an average rate of 6.5 murders for every 1,000 adolescents, and is where seven of the top ten most dangerous municipalities for youths are located.

The municipality of Fortaleza recorded the highest murder rate, with 10.9 murders per 1,000, followed by Maceió with 9.4. Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, the two cities that receive the most public attention over organized crime and violence, meanwhile, actually ranked below the average, recording rates of 2.71 and 2.19 respectively.

If the trends established over the period continue, then 43,000 more adolescents will be murdered in the 300 municipalities between 2015 and 2021, UNICEF concludes.

InSight Crime Analysis

The UNICEF report highlights how Brazil is one of the more extreme examples of a trend seen across the region: violence by and against young people, especially young males. According to World Bank data from 2016, the homicide rate for males aged 15-24 in Latin America and the Caribbean reaches 92 per 100,000, almost four times the regional average.

A significant factor in this violence is organized crime, which capitalizes on the social and economic marginalization of youth to recruit cheap, disposable labor used for everything from intelligence work to assassinations.

This places adolescents at risk in numerous ways; either they are involved in criminal activities, their peers are involved, they resist criminal attempts to recruit or use them, or they are stigmatized by states forces that treat youths as criminals.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Homicides

As InSight Crime has documented, this is a phenomenon seen throughout the region’s organized crime hotspots, with Colombia, Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras displaying alarming indicators of young people taking part in and being victimized by organized crime.

Perhaps the most alarming aspect documented by UNICEF is the rapid rise in violence in recent years. This increase is the most damning indicator that security policies based on social interventions targeting vulnerable youth are either ineffective or entirely absent.

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