Edited by Robert Geyer and Paul Cairney
Chapter 17: Brazil and violent crime: complexity as a way of approaching ‘intractable’ problems
Brazil has the unenviable reputation of being one of the most violent countries in the world. In 2011, no fewer than 43 913 homicides were recorded in the country, a rate of 22.33 homicides per 100 000 inhabitants. Nowhere has this problem been more acute than in the country’s two biggest cities, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, whose metropolitan areas account for roughly 15 percent of the entire Brazilian population. Since these two cities also represent the major economic hub of the country (in the case of Sao Paulo) and the country’s major tourist destination (in the case of Rio de Janeiro), what happens in these cities generally attracts more attention than what happens elsewhere. Yet these two cases are also interesting because of the ways in which the authorities have tried to deal with the problem of violent crime and the seemingly positive results this has achieved. In the case of Sao Paulo, murder rates have more than halved over the last 15 years, whilst in Rio de Janeiro the installation of so-called Unidades Policiais Pacificadoras (UPPs, Pacifying Police Units) in some of the city’s most violent shanty towns (or ‘favelas’) since 2009 has also led to (or coincided with) a significant reduction in homicide cases.
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