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Brazil has lowest homicide rate in ten years

Brazil recorded 47,503 homicides over the last year, the equivalent of 130 deaths a day, according to data released this Tuesday, 28, by the Brazilian Public Security Forum. The number represents a drop compared to 2020 and is the lowest recorded since 2011, when the historical series begins. Among the reasons, experts point to a stabilization of conflicts between criminal factions, which in the last decade advanced through the North and Northeast of the country, and the implementation of state programs focused on younger audiences.

“Deaths have dropped, which is good news,” he told the Estadão the director-president of the Forum, the sociologist Renato Sérgio de Lima. “But comparing internationally the number is still very high”, he pondered. According to him, the data released this year were compared to the indices of 102 countries, gathered by the United Nations (UN).

The comparison, according to him, is not positive. “Brazil is the leader in the absolute number of deaths and is among the ten most violent countries on the planet,” said Lima. “When you look at it with a zoom, 30 Brazilian cities have rates above 100 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants,” he said, stressing that the rate in these municipalities is higher than that of any country in the world.

Among the 30 most violent cities in the country, according to the survey, 13 are part of the Legal Amazon and most of them are located in the border region. “There is a process of migration of violence to the North region”, explained Lima. As a cause of this, he attributes the activity in the region of factions of prison bases and militias, which would have raised the rates of violence in states such as, mainly, Amazonas.

The Forum material points out that homicide records have dropped in all regions of the country, except for the North. In it, 6,291 murders were recorded in the last year, compared to 5,758 in 2020. The biggest increase was in Amazonas, where deaths rose from 1,121 to 1,670. Recently, the indigenist Bruno Pereira and the British journalist Dom Phillips were killed in Atalaia do Norte, on the state border. The crime drew attention to the increase in violence in the area.

The conflicts in the Amazon, explained Lima, continue a series of disputes between factions that have been going on since 2017 and that previously resulted in a rise in homicides in the Northeast. In 2017, the Northeast recorded 27,288 homicides. Now, it is still the leader in records in the country, but it is going through a stabilization process – there were 20,500 occurrences in 2021.

In this period, other regions entered the radar of the factions. “Tabatinga (AM) is now considered the second main city for international drug and arms trafficking. It only loses to the Ponta Porã (MS) route”, highlighted Lima. “The Ponta Porã route is controlled by the PCC (Primeiro Comando da Capital), while the Tabatinga route is controlled by the Comando Vermelho. But these routes are disputed.”

Conflicts for control of regions like these, he explained, are one of the main reasons that justify the rise in deaths in specific regions of the map, at the same time that other locations seem to get out of focus. “The Tabatinga area still has all the interconnection with environmental issues”, he says, remembering that the executions of Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips, in Vale do Javari, took place close to that region.

“But trafficking alone doesn’t explain that (the variations in homicides), there are other factors,” Lima said. According to the director of the Forum, 23% of the trend observed in 2021 – whether upward or downward in crime rates – was influenced by changes in the demographic structure of the Brazilian population. “We know that whoever dies the most and kills the most are young people,” said the sociologist. The aging process of the population also slips in crime rates.

Lima reinforces that the 10-19 and 20-29 age groups are the ones that most influence the indicators, which demands focused public policies. “It is in this segment that the dynamics of lethal violence has greater weight and, therefore, it is in this segment that we have to look more closely at what is being done,” he said.

In this context, he reinforces that specific programs by state governments may also have influenced the drop in homicides, especially to prevent young people from being co-opted by organized crime. As an example, he mentions the Viva Brasília initiatives, in the Federal District, and RS Mais Seguro, in Rio Grande do Sul.

“These programs, according to available studies, work. The problem is that they are limited to the leadership of the manager at that moment”, pondered Lima. As there was no structural change in the area, he explained, initiatives like these may lose impact, depending on the plans of the next managers. The impact of the pandemic and social isolation measures in 2020 and last year, according to Forum analysts, was greater in property or opportunity crimes, such as robberies, than in murders.

Weapons and Murders

In recent years, he recalled, the speeches were heavily guided by the arming of the population. Facilitating access to weapons is one of the main banners of President Jair Bolsonaro, candidate for reelection. According to a survey by the Forum, however, this is not a factor that reduces crime. “The government’s thesis would be ‘the more weapons, the less crimes’. In the states that had the greatest positive variation in the number of weapons in circulation, there should be a greater drop in homicides. And that’s not what happens, the dispersion is too great, there is no pattern.”

According to Lima, the survey shows that there are about 4.4 million firearms in the hands of civilians in the country. Of these, 1.5 million are in irregular circulation, with expired records, which is even a point of concern. “More than a third of the firearms in the hands of civilians in the country’s circulation are irregular weapons, showing the degree of lack of control that weapons find today”, he pointed out. “There is a lack of a control and traceability policy that, for public safety, would be fundamental.”

police lethality

As well as homicides, police lethality also fell in absolute numbers: from 6,413 in 2020 to 6,145 in the last year, a reduction of 4.2%. Even so, the share occupied by deaths of this type, which include deaths resulting from police interventions, had a slight increase. It went from 12.7% to 12.9% of intentional violent deaths, which also include cases of intentional homicide (when there is an intention to kill), robbery (robbery followed by death) and bodily harm followed by death.

Lima stressed that the drop in absolute numbers of lethality in the country was led by São Paulo, whose deaths after police interventions dropped from 814 to 570 in one year. In Lima’s assessment, as the camera program has not yet reached the entire state, it is not yet possible to correlate the decline with the adoption of the technology, which has shown good results in sample analyses.

“The camera is just an instrument. What happened in São Paulo, which is more important, is a policy, as the PM itself calls it, of compliance and control. It reinforced the supervision of police activity”, explained the sociologist. “The São Paulo police made a command decision to control their troops on the street more, and this has this positive impact. The camera, for example, in Rio de Janeiro or in another state will not necessarily work if it is not accompanied by the supervision of police activity.”

At the other end, Lima highlighted that Amapá drew attention in terms of police lethality. Altogether, 31.8% of homicides in the state were due to police lethality this year, a number that corresponds to more than double the national average (12.9%). In the Southeast region, the highest lethality is in Rio (28.5%).

Source: CNN Brasil

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