Adventures of a foreigner in the south of Brazil.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Crime in the Rio Grande do Sul

I had planned to find a quiet forest somewhere for the weekend to go for a walk. It's something I love doing, and that I miss here. There are parks, but that is not the same. Further enquiry with friends on where there would be good spots produced some raised hair and dire warnings not to do that. Plus stories of murders in forests. It appears unguarded nature here is even more dangerous than cities, fugitives from justice hide there. Guarded parks and nature reserves are where you can go.

That irks. Yet another restriction, another fence I have to hide behind.

And it set me thinking. For there are lots of stories how dangerous life here is. I have had one car smashed when visiting a restaurant, and I know a fair number of people who have been victims of assault and robbery. It is very different from Europe. However, I was wondering about the numbers. Actual dangers can, after all, be far from perceived dangers. And all of my evidence is anecdotal.
This is like where everybody knows that the police recommends to not stop at red traffic lights at night. They don't.

So I checked the numbers. (And while we're at it: Don't stop at red lights in the night.)

Note: The following numbers are only for crimes against persons (murder, assault, bodily harm etc.). While other official crime statistics are also available I haven't bothered with them.


Development of crime in the RS since 2000

The numbers for the following statistics have been compiled from the published data on crime of the Policia Civil and the Brigada Militar (available at http://www.ciosp.rs.gov.br/). Census data is published by the Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics (available at http://www.ibge.gov.br/)


Figure 1: Crimes against persons in the Rio Grande do Sul


The number of homicides for 2007 is a projection from the official number for homicides 01/2007-09/2007.


Figure 2: Homicides in the Rio Grande do Sul


Comparing these figures to the population growth it is all too obvious that crime rises proportionally faster. The following graph has been normalized to 2000 = 1 for all figures in order to better compare the percentual change.
In 2000 the Rio Grande do Sul had 10.187.842 inhabitants, growing to 10.582.324 in 2007 .


Figure 3: Rise in crime vs. population growth in the Rio Grande do Sul


While population has increased by 3.8% homicides had increased by 12% till 2006 and a projected 27% in 2007. Crimes against persons had increased by 10% till 2006. Both numbers have been consistently larger than 10% from 2003 onwards. For 2007 general data on crimes is not available yet. While the good news is that crimes against persons have been going back in the past years their overall growth is still larger than supported by the population growth, and homicides are rising again.

In relation to the population we have in 2006 per 100.000 inhabitants in the Rio Grande do Sul




Crimes followed by death14
Bodily harm (victim lives)792
Others36


I conclude that the numbers support the perception that crime is a problem. And it is increasing. (The number for Germany, e.g. for crimes followed by death is roughly a fourth of this in 2006. Compare http://www.bka.de/pks/)

Deaths through firearms in Brazil

It is in this context also noteworthy that Brazil has the largest number of homicides with firearms in any country that is not at war according to a study by the Instituto Sou da Paz. (Compare also IANSA, Instituto Sou da Paz.) At the time of this writing the number of deaths through guns is a reported 300.000 since January 1st 2007.