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What is the cost of a crime in Brazil?
Very hard question since im not a security specialist. There is a bunch of debate and research in civil society in Brazil about causes, incidences, strategies to combat it, and it is as far as i know clear that the straighforwand thesis of “social inequality explains everything” is more of a misleading one. “Car Wash operations” have shown the society big crime is white-collar. Although inequality is the context to our deadly problem. Before thinking of “costs”, Ill try to develop some more basic reference points:
- It is pretty clear the weaknesses and lack of smart policies and integration of State police forces (remember that, guaranteeing security on the streets, I mean, police forces, is a responsibility of Federation States, São Paulo, Rio, Minas Gerais etc. Federal government runs the Justice Ministry, joining the Federal Police, indigenous right, refugees, crimes against economy, and other issues that go beyond States. For example, Money Wash crimes). Now that we have a security crises in Brazil, with the army being called to back up police in 2 or 3 states, Justice ministry is trying (as always) to give answers ( ).
- Why do we now have a security crisis? Drug and Gun illegal selling explains a lot. In the last 2 decades we watched crime getting organized and forging “armies”, limiting territory as monopolies to commit crimes. This is very evident in SP and RJ. Drug selling became a very organized institution, made of “armies” fighting against themselves, brutally, involving kids and grown-ups. In RJ for example, the geographical location of favelas limits the entry of police, who are famous for being as brutal as the gangsters.
- I notice, there is kind of a “tacit” agreement that these illegal activities are to happen “peacefully”. “Let it happen as far as it makes lives preserved”. It is also true that these complex illegal and brutal system does: (1) have the engagement and “tacit” participation of political and police actors, who get bribes to make things go on as they go. (2) The criminal “armies” enforce moral laws in their communities as they judge, for example, no-one in that favela robs or kills another one from the same favela. The illegal “armies” provide drugs, makes a lot of money selling to rich people in the south marvelous tourist area of Rio, and install their own understanding of moral laws in their territory. This is although, “peaceful times”.
- There are strong brutal feelings among the several “armies”, specially to conquer or guarantee more territories, guns, and, protect inhabits! See. Things are more complex. In more recent times, another kind of “army” got public attention, the “milicias”, also working in favelas. The milicias are composed of former police and army men, ex- fire professionals, private security professionals off duty, normal people with anger of injustice etc. They got progressively organized to protect people from the brutality of organized crimes and their hard jurisdiction (main narcoarmies are PCC, in SP, and Comando Vermelho, in RJ but there are many). It is known that the origin of milicias traces back to the State blinding their eyes, as militias could be a kind of contraforce against “armies” the State didn’t know how to fight. With time, they became brutal and started offering extra services and guaranteeing community security in exchange for money. Extra services: painted symbols in the houses to mark a protected family, fast track to basic services, like cable TV and electricity, for free, control of all-illegal gambling houses and of real state projects in the favelas, in exchange of fees. Milicias dont rob banks and cars, cause their activities are “ambiguous”, while drug dealers are robbing cars, cel phones and banks. There is a wave in Brazil now of bandits invading banks with their cars, destroying it, making panic to rob and quickly run away with a car expecting them outside. Milicias don’t do it.
- As you see, security issues in the big cities are complex. Milicias have connections with high State and Federal authorities to back up their activities, or, otherwise, territories would be abandoned. When police goes up the favelas, population fear the most, cause there will be deaths in brutal confrontation. Police invading favelas is never a solution. Before the World Cup, in 2009, State government tried a “revolutionary” policy of “finally” setting police forces IN the favelas, so that they could build trust and guarantee a more balanced scenario. The so-called UPP, unit of pacification police, did lowed homicide rates significantly, but failed for a number of reasons. See? Complex.
- For example, recent news accused Rio’s police to have lent a military, strong vehicle to drug dealers, in this current crisis, so that they could drive back to their territories as they were fighting for new frontiers. High bribes were distributed. See the vehicle below.
- I offer you interested a link in english that brings a lot of information from a former high authority of security in Rio. He was fired for accusing police factions of connection with crime. Worth reading, pairs with my opinions.
- Now, additional answer to the original question: costs of crime. (a) lives of people and suffering families (b) difficult-to-fight established connections between police and crime, discrediting the whole security system, territories fully controlled by the crime (c) leading to a long-dated legitimacy crises (that is why Brazilians always mention security when giving advice about Brazil, fair, there is a psychological bias we are on our own) (d) the reorganization of cities, and the whole Brazilian urban dynamics, into condos, big building settings for living and, more recently, also working. A condo can have one big equipped tower and can also be entirely planned neighborhoods with a dozen of buildings. Brazilians don’t have to leave their condos anymore, this phenomena reinforces inequality and “fear of the other” in everyday life. Vicious cycle. Separate the rich from the poor. Real Estate businesses buying earlier cheap areas to upgrade them, expel original inhabitants (rents get higher) and getting the richer together. Not only a Brazilian phenomena of course. Fair for business logics, but imoral from an urbanist view.
- (Pause) Just to bring a microscopic family example of this last consequence above. My brother is and architect who got specialized in garden design, and worked in top offices in SP. He now lives in my hometown, very modern, high standards of living, being aggressively invaded by new constructors. This was a huge opportunity for him. Local constructors had to update their project conceptions too. The whole market was for him, he was in the right spot with the right expertise, very few competitors. The city, São José dos Campos, is less than 1 hour from SP, has 700.000 inhabitants and is fully serviced, also headquarter of Embraer, with makes the city home of our aerospace and defense cluster. Big money. Many engineers. Ok. When he started getting experienced of this opportunity, he told me, he went to a local contractor, an old business company, and had to convince their directors of “why they should hire my brother for designing the gardens of the enterprise being planned”. Gardens in condos, at that time, in a middle city, was not the rule. Local business had already understood they needed to build apartments with big balconies, for barbecue and great landscape views, but gardens? For what? After my brother showed his portfolio, with included successful enterprises in SP, with design gardens equipped for children and adult entertainment, a director stood up and asked him: “Felipe [my brother], I have here a poll about what matters to a client looking for a condo unit. And a garden stands as a very low priority. Why should we accept your offer?” My brother (I love him!) checked the poll and had just the bombastic insight. He saw the first priorities in the list and said: “I think you are not getting me right. I’m not selling you gardens simply. I’m selling you a new concept of living where the unit owners will have no concerns to let their children play downstairs, with a wide variety of possibilities I’m showing you now (including indoor and outdoor beach-resort-like pools). What Im selling you is an upgrade in your sales speech, in line with customers’ first priority: security.” Do you get the: Fair for business logics, but imoral from an urbanist view? He got the contract and the directors were caught speechless. My brother is now the most famous and awarded garden designer in town. He helped change market standards. I like this story of family achievement lol… So, crime gets into these more subtle consequences and costs, since the cities become more and more segregated.
- Another issue I won’t talk much cause already said a lot. Public transportation. Rich people don’t use busses, unless they’re students – bus rides are the standard here, SP has the world’s biggest fleet of buses, a lot of hard-to-fight mafia in this business. It has changed nowadays as public transportation has evolved, Uber has forced taxis to evolve and get cheaper, and there was a quick development of a bike route system throughout SP, spreading into other cities. Metro is modern and reliable, most democratic means of transportation, but very crowded in rush hours and too small for necessities. Metro system is growing slowly, but new stations and equipment are state-of-art. But the historical segregation of poor/rich has been enforced by public service delivery: poor in buses/rich in cars. There is even a joke that says: “I’ll get my Mercedes-Benz”, which means the big busses, and not the cars of course. As middle classes grew under Lula, new factories were installed in Brazil with great expectations, credit for buying cars grew, the market in first term of Lula broke records of sales, the streets were even more crowded, traffic got worse, but them the resession brought numbers of sales to levels back in the 1990s. I’m saying this because buying a car is a major symbolic step to leave “being poor” to “being rich”. (Car industry in Brazil, I say disagreeing with depreciative comment somewhere, does not make “crap”. They bring, or develop, and make cars suitable to Brazilian society. They are not crap, they are just simpler, much smaller than those in Europe and USA. But we have our own R&D, like building new generation small cars suitable for countries like Brazil, and the ecofuel ethanol, used by Flex cars everywhere, as an alternative for gas. But, of course, also controversial policies and complex market changes.)
- Not to mention high health system costs with violence, young people using drugs earlier (maryuana, mixed cocaine and the so dangerous cheap version of cocaine called crack. Decriminalizing them is a debate that indeed grows, but complicated as society is very heterogeneous). The police forces are not organized, systems intelligence is weak, police forces are underpaid and undertrained… A disaster. How to judge police actions in this context? How to improve the system? How to break long-lasting illegal connections? I have fear and anxiety feelings for the next generations of full citizens in Brazil, although I recognize many other positive new aspects, like being more connected to politics. I hope I helped! Até logo e obrigado!