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Crime rises in Brazil’s most populous state

February 4th, 2010

Storm clouds loom above Sao Paulo, BrazilCrime, especially kidnappings and fatal muggings, is on the rise in Brazil’s most populous state of Sao Paulo for the first time in a decade, the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper reported Wednesday.

Statistics from the security secretariat show the state, home to nearly a quarter of Brazil’s 190 million people, is suffering a year-on-year surge in murders, robbery and abductions unseen since 2000, the daily said.

It noted a huge jump in the number of deadly street muggings in the main city of Sao Paulo — South America’s biggest urban agglomeration with a population of 20 million — even though overall crime statistics there continued to decline.

The head of the state civilian police force, Domingos Paulo Neto, “was at a loss to explain the increase in murders in the rest of the state” and said he needed to analyze the data with other officials, the newspaper said.

He posited, however, that some of the crimes could be attributed to the effects of the global economic crisis in late 2008 to mid-2009.

“The cycle finished at the end of the first quarter (March 2009). That’s why we’re seeing some higher indicators,” he said.

According to the statistics, fatal muggings in Sao Paulo city soared 45 per cent between 2009 and 2008, with 100 people killed. There were 3.4 per cent more deadly muggings in the rest of the state, where another 149 people died.

Kidnappings — usually cases where individuals are abducted and held until a ransom is paid — jumped 39 per cent across the state. It more than doubled in the city of Sao Paulo, where 23 cases were reported in 2009 compared to 11 in 2008.

Robberies, not including vehicle theft and bank assaults, jumped 13 per cent in Sao Paulo city, with 123,482 cases reported — and 28 per cent across the rest of the state with another 81,099 cases.

Murders not including muggings fell 2.2 per cent in Sao Paulo city with 1,235 cases. But they rose 16 per cent across the rest of the state with 2,113 cases.

The overall homicide rate in Sao Paulo city was 12.3 instances per 100,000 inhabitants.

As bad as the figures seemed, they were far lower than those recorded before the decade-long decrease in reported crime. In 1999, for instance, the number of homicides across all of Sao Paulo state was three times higher.

Authorities had credited the decade-long decline with more resources for police, more prisons and more weapons being seized.

Despite the improvement, which coincided with an economic boom, Brazil is still considered a country with a high risk of street crime — an image it is struggling to shed as it prepares to host the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

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