Death Toll Rises in São Paulo Crime Wave

By Lucy Jordan, Senior Contributing Reporter

BRASÍLIA, BRAZIL – In the bloodiest weekend yet of the violent crime wave gripping São Paulo, 31 people lost their lives between Friday evening and Sunday afternoon, Folha reported. Experts are calling the surge of violence part of an escalating war between police and the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital, PCC), a notorious gang involved in drug trafficking and organized crime.

Military police working as part of Operação Saturação (Operation Saturation), aimed at combating a wave of violent crime currently gripping São Paulo, Brazil News

Military police working as part of Operação Saturação (Operation Saturation), aimed at combating a wave of violent crime currently gripping São Paulo, are seen in the north of the city, photo by Marcelo Camargo/ABr.

The deaths brought the toll to at least 154 between October 24th and November 12th, according to an Estadão survey, and 1127 so far this year – already exceeding the 2011 total of 1069. Gunmen appear to be targeting police officers, as well as killing citizens randomly, with 93 law enforcers killed so far this year – seventy of whom were off-duty when killed – representing a forty percent rise on last year.

Speaking off the record, police officials this weekend told local news they believe the attacks are a reprisal by the PCC for a recent police crackdown on drug trafficking. Reports emerged on Tuesday that military police leadership suspect a document listing the names and addresses of more than one hundred São Paulo police officers has been sold by corrupt police to PCC-linked criminals for R$8,000 and used to target victims.

Formed in 1993 by inmates, initially as a protection scheme and way to demand better conditions in São Paulo’s overcrowded prison system, the PCC later evolved into a criminal network with influence in prisons throughout the state. It first gained international notoriety in 2006, when, using a system of smuggled mobile phones and pen-drives, it allegedly orchestrated a series of deadly attacks that left some 200 dead.

Alckmin

São Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin speaks to reporters after meeting with the Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo to discuss the wave of violence plaguing the state, photo by Marcelo Camargo/ABr.

Some experts say that the killings do not express frustration at more effective policing, but anger at the widespread police brutality and extra-judicial killings that have earned Brazil criticism from rights groups.

“One of the PCC’s guidelines says that if a policeman captures one of its members and decides to execute instead of arresting him, then the PCC cell in the region must kill some military police,” Camila Nunes Dias, a sociologist and expert on the PCC from the University of Sao Paulo, told the BBC.

The statistics would seem to support this theory: A spike in murders earlier this year coincided with an incident on May 28, when ROTA, an elite faction of the military police, killed six alleged PCC-linked criminals in the parking lot of a bar in Penha. The following month, eleven police officers were killed – almost double the toll of May. Overall deaths citywide jumped from 108 in May to 134 in June.

“I believe that the current crisis has more connection with the relationship between police and crime, than an isolated decision of the PCC,” said Renato Sérgio de Lima, a sociologist and member of the Brazilian Forum of Public Safety. Police should “refine their control, their mechanisms of command, so that all the history and achievements of recent years in reducing homicides are not lost.”

In response to suggestions that police brutality could have triggered the crime wave, a police spokesperson said that violence in the city had many causes “beyond the activity of the police,” adding, “The PM of Sao Paulo works daily to maintain public safety in the state of São Paulo.”

As the violence escalated this weekend, churches in the city’s outskirts cancelled Sunday mass, while some schools and shops observed self-imposed curfews. The crime wave reverses a long-term trend of decreasing violence in the affluent southeast of the country and will raise concerns over the city’s ability to ensure adequate security during the 2014 World Cup.

On Monday, Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo and state governor Geraldo Alckmin formalized a raft of measures to stem the tide of violence, including authorizing the transfer of certain prisoners, in an attempt to disrupt the PCC’s chain of command. Cardozo pledged R$60 million in federal assistance.

18 Responses to "Death Toll Rises in São Paulo Crime Wave"

  1. Richard Golding  November 14, 2012 at 1:05 PM

    I was a Police Officer in the U.S.A. we are tought that excessive force is used as long as to is being displayed by the suspect, but….when that force stops such as resisting, etc. then you as a Police Officer have to also stop.
    I would love to be a adviser to the Police Dept. in Brazil I have family there and we visit often, Former Housing Police Officer Trenton N.J.let me know if you need the advise.
    Also the other thing I see is that Gangs that are armed and dangerious there appear to be a major problem, why not educate them as well try to have town meetings, community relations do work, get a peace agreement between the Police and them and attempt to work out something, such as job training, also more talk to the youth in those area’s that have issues with gangs the youths love to be in gangs because they have nothing else to do. Communitu Relations are needed,and God is as well

  2. Richard Golding  November 14, 2012 at 1:30 PM

    start video taping the Police Officers and the suspects for “proof beond a resonable dought” so no Brutility is taking place and if it is it is recorded, and deal with the P.O. take him/her off the street and have a internal investigation take place this all has to stop as well by the P.O.
    Put video camers inside the Police vehicles as well and record there action as well this will cut back a lot of things that may have taken place, and the person in custody can’t say this or that happened, a lot of changes are needed to assure safety of “ALL”

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  4. bobby  November 15, 2012 at 12:35 PM

    Sao Paulo should take a lesson from New York city. In the 80′s New York suffered from a crime epidemic. Rather than focusing all their efforts on targeting large, complicated problems like gang violence, the police and the city together began targeting minor crimes and cleaning up the streets. For example, graffiti, or people entering the subway without paying. These small things makes people feel that there is no control, that if there is graffiti everywhere than other crimes must also be happening. The police and the city can focus their efforts on these types of smaller issues and by removing the context that makes citizens feel that crime is prevalent these smaller issues will lead to big changes. Malcolm Gladwell discusses this “broken window” theory in his book “Tipping Point”

  5. Raimundo  November 16, 2012 at 12:37 AM

    Brazil has abandoned the path to development where education and public programs keep minor from becoming criminals and if there are criminals death penalty immediately this has to stop no prisons why waste millions in an inefficient corrupt judiciary system kill the ones that do not abide to the law and educate the upcoming generations there is no mercy for violent crime on the same side opportunity should be funneled through social programs.

  6. Odd Hynnekleiv  November 16, 2012 at 12:00 PM

    Just want to commend Richard Golding and other good willing and God fearing law enforcement personell who still have ideas and energy to keep pushing for improvements knowing that all our rights don’t mean a thing if we lack security – and justice. Keep up the good work.

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  8. Barry Varkel  November 21, 2012 at 11:47 AM

    The problem with Brazil is that Police Officers get paid much too little. This is the only explanation for a corrupt SP Police Officer selling a confidential list with the names and home addresses of one hundred SP Police Officers. If that individual were earning a decent salary, he would have thought twice about pulling such a crazy move. There is also evidence of UPP Officers in Rio de Janeiro being involved directly with drug traffickers and being paid protection money. The question once again is: why?

    On a much deeper level, Brazil is a completely corrupt society. The super rich and the top 5% of society (which also includes Government Ministers and Politicians on the take) literally live in a parallel universe where absolute impunity is the order of the day. Case in point is a corrupt former Senator for the State of Para called Jader Babalho who raped and pillaged public funds to the tune of two billion US$ from SUDAM (an Amazon Development agency). He was however never convicted. Another case in point was the first ever democratically elected President of Brazil called Fernando Collor de Mello who was duly impeached following a corruption scandal, but was never convicted for the crime of influence peddling and is today, still a Brazilian Senator. These are however two extreme examples of what I am trying to say. But the point here is that Brazilian high society is right now the same as that of the Roman elite during the fall of the Roman Empire. But we are now in 2012 people!!

    As regards the recent violence in Sao Paulo, this is easily explained as follows: when a corrupt civil administration declares open war on its most marginalised citizens (favela residents) how exactly do you expect this group of people to react? The instinct for survival will be stronger than ever, and of course, the PCC will issue instructions for its capos to kill SP Police Officers.

    The only solution is for Brazil to forge ahead with honest leadership such as Rousseff and Paes (although some say he is corrupt too) and take a stand against a society that is still too divided along income lines. The old adages of better education, better jobs and and living conditions will go some way to improving the lives of poorer Brazilians. There also has to be a change of attitude and perception amongst the top 5% of Brazilian society who regard the urban poor as “lixo” (garbage).

    That’s my five cents worth for today.

  9. half.king  November 21, 2012 at 11:49 AM

    Violence against police in Brazil is not a simple or unilayered problem. I was a policeman in Chicago for 15 years, graduate degree in criminology from UIC and private investigator for 20 years. The social forces that interact with the criminal justice system must be understood to properly address the problem. Firstly, unempolment in Brasil is at 50%. The US would be in revolution at 50% unemployment. Police, military and civilian are severly underpaid and undereducated, to wit: police in Sao Paulo went on strike to protest with their families at police headquarters seeking more money. The military was brought in to arrest them and their families. In a society where cost of living continually rises your public and private employees will need salary increases. In the last two years I have Brasilian Firemen, Bus drivers, Postal employees, and doctors on strike. Societies where employed people cannot feed, clothe, and shelter their families will go to the edge of collapse. I think it is deplorable the way women are treated in Brasil. Legal prostitution in Brasil tells women do not worry, if you cannot find a job, you can always be a whore.
    Summary punishment of death has the gangs seeing the police as just another gang. International criminal justice systems do not even recommend the death penalty for international terrorist like Jihadists. Punishment must fit the crime. A fair justice system takes in the entire litany of social factors ingredient in criminal behavior. As youths have no jobs at all, and no way to get educated to get jobs, they see making money from dealing crack as a way to feed their, mothers, wives children and grandchildren.
    It is the very poor who understand the police in a society intimately. An educated policeman can be like a social scientist in the favela. Knowing who just got out of jail, knowing who lost their job. It seems that Brasilian Police anticipate violence from the Brasilian populace. Brasil is the only country where air support can be used to assault civilians. It is not ironic that weapons dealers hold their convention in Brasil. Israel was pitching a video system that could monitor six sniper positions and their targets for elimination from a command center.
    Sociologist have concluded that police that patrol a community as an occupation force, and poised for combat that the citizenry will acquire a defensive posture to a violent confromtation. A documentary of a Brasilian who put a gun to the head of a passenger on a bus making some unreasonable demands, depicted the police in Brasil trying to empty the bus to kill the suspect by sniper fire. Why not send a psyciatrist and social worker and priest with the suspects family to talk with him first? Prisons in Brasil are like gladiator schools in gulags. Some prisoners have been known to get sent to jail and their release date comes and goes with them still in prison. The bottom line is a society can be judged by the way it treats prisoners in their prisons.

  10. John Hesse  November 21, 2012 at 1:34 PM

    The Sao Paulo crime wave has seen “at least 154 deaths between Oct. 24th and Nov. 12th reaching 1157 deaths this year.

    Yet Brazil condemns Israel for fefending itself when the death toll is higher from the PCC, a Criminal Group.

    Why doesn’t Sao Paulo defend itself and go hardcore with the best units whether local or professionals brought in to eradicate the PCC.

    There are a couple private contract high end security companies manned by former Mossad and other contractors that could lesson your problem drastically.

    Fight Fire with Fire.

    John H.

  11. orlario  November 25, 2012 at 10:17 AM

    Easy for Brazil to condemn bloodshed in Gaza when Sao Paulo is at war !
    Too many pro-palestinians in Brazil, one day they have to face reality.
    Antisemitism is not a human value, brazilians share islamist propaganda.

  12. Chris Holmes  December 7, 2012 at 7:08 PM

    With all due respect, Mr. Golding, I believe that while your suggestions have merit, they are already happening in many ways. There are a number of non-profits and community organizations that are attempting to tackle the problems the youth of Sao Paulo, Rio and beyond face. This includes education, art, job skills, etc…

    It is, as I’m sure you’re aware, also a very different place from the United States. The money/power that PCC and Commando Vermelho posess… It’s MAJOR business.. and even though it is often the 12-20 year olds we hear of dying for these gangs, it is not a game run by children.

    You’re also correct that police officers that abuse their positions using excessive force or gaining illicitly from the drug game and other rackets should be held accountible, however, without the guarantees that we feel we have in the US (such as a police force that you can generally count on), it could be a death wish for the individuals that choose to hold them to a certain level of accountibility.

    Also remember that the civil police, military police, etc.. are not as well paid as officers in the US. These officers tend to come from the same types of communities they are waging war within.

    Got to start somewhere though… Perhaps UPP and other actions will plant seeds of thought… if nothing else.

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  18. Carlo  February 26, 2014 at 5:17 AM

    Being an American Brasilian, my experiences visiting Brasil have been very tense to say the least. If you call the police in time of need they just don’t show up.My family that lives there lives behind walls and I don’t have one family member that hasn’t told me they have never been robbed! I would never trade the safety you get in this blessed countryfor feeling you cacan’t walk outside at night because you might have to give up your underwear.I love Brasil but the government has to change the way they handle things.

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