Brazil Consolidates Itself as a Laboratory of Promising Experiments in Violence Reduction

March 22, 2013

Two World Bank reports analyze incidence of violence in Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO, March 22, 2013 – Integrated policies combining control mechanisms with strong prevention measures are crucial to combatting violence in Brazil in a sustainable manner, according to the main conclusions of two World Bank reports presented today at the Pereira Passos Institute.

“Understanding the mechanisms that contribute to a scenario of high crime and listening to those communities most affected by violence is key to identifying the solutions necessary to improve public safety and the quality of life of the country,” said Deborah L. Wetzel, World Bank Director for Brazil.

“Both studies show that it is possible to reduce crime with measures combining results-based police control activities with prevention activities, such as gun and alcohol consumption control and social programs aimed at at-risk youth,” added Wetzel.

Brazil’s regions and states have shown dramatic changes in homicide rates in the last decade. The national rate exhibits a more gradual reduction in the same period, from 28.9 in 2003 to 27.2 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2010. Meanwhile, this drop hides great variations between regions, states and municipalities, which need to be understood in order to replicate good practices and to address the main reasons behind the growth of violence in certain areas.

According to study coordinator Rodrigo Serrano-Berthet, changes to the national rate and variations between states and regions respond in part to structural factors and in part to the public policies undertaken. “Changes in the percentage of male youth, inequality rates and, to a lesser extent, a reduction of the dropout rate in public secondary schools, are correlated to trend changes at the state and regional level.”

Serrano added that “successful cases, such as states in the Southeast and Pernambuco showing a significant decrease in homicide rates, in contrast to most Northern and Northeastern states, also seem to be connected to integrated control and prevention policies focused on the home territory.”

The Making Brazilians Safer: Analyzing the Dynamics of Violent Crime report shows that the retention of youth in school can become an important factor in the prevention of violence; it also reaches unprecedented conclusions in terms of the impact on crime of conditional cash transfer programs such as Bolsa Familia. This becomes quite relevant given that homicide has been the main cause of death among youth between 15 and 24 years of age since the 1980’s.

Based on stories gathered among inhabitants of communities previously dominated by drug trafficking, Bringing the State Back into the Favelas of Rio de Janeiro: Understanding Changes in Community Life after the UPP Pacification Process report analyzes the changes following the Police Pacification Unit Program implemented by the Rio de Janeiro government.

That Rio de Janeiro study involved the participation of researchers from Rio’s Pontifícia Universidade Católica (PUC-RJ), the Getúlio Vargas Foundation (FGV-RJ) and international specialists, in constant consultation with the Pereira Passos Institute (IPP), the State Secretariat of Social Action and Human Rights (SEASDH) and experts from academia and civil society.

The report describes the positives changes observed after the arrival of UPPs to the communities, such as a feeling of freedom and increased delivery of public services, as well as matters of distrust and remaining challenges.

The study shows how the historical role of crime and police in the communities influences the perception of the UPP program among them and its success. It also describes the way the relationships inside those communities changed after the police presence and their reincorporation into city life, with the delivery of public services, education and increased access to the labor market. That information can be used as the basis for new UPP implementation plans, and underscores the need to reinforce programs such as UPP Social to help promote the social and economic integration of these communities into the city.

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