Criminality is a problem that each place in the world encounters and it is a problem that each society must address. In the city of Rio de Janeiro, crimes are committed at staggering numbers every day and this makes the city one of the most dangerous and violent cities in the world (Cviic, 1999; Cole, 2007). This also poses as an irony since Rio de Janeiro is also the friendliest city in the world, according to a California University study (Harrison, 2003).
This paper will, therefore, layout the history and culture of the city in order to understand and identify its demographics and the different social contexts, values and behavior of its people. These will then be linked to particular criminological theories discussed by Williams and McShane (2003), which will be used to explain the high incidences of crime in Rio de Janeiro. Strategies to reduce crime will also be recommended. Rio de Janeiro was the city chosen since it is the friendliest city in the world and one of Brazil’s most famous and beautiful cities, yet the most troubled (MS Encarta, 2007).
Even though famous tourist sites such as the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, Sugarloaf Mountain, the Christ the Redeemer statue, and the famous Carnaval and Samba Parades are all in the city, it has the highest crime rate in all of Brazil, with a homicide rate of 50 out of 100,000 people in 2007 (Newsroom, 2007). This number, however, has declined from 74 out of 100,000 in 2004 (Souza & Sa, 2005) and the reported 8,000 murders in 1994 (MS Encarta, 2007). These staggering numbers do not yet include the number of other crimes such as robbery, theft, and other non-violent crimes.
History of Rio de Janeiro Before the Portuguese discovered Rio de Janeiro in 1502, the land was populated by different groups of native people such as the Arawak and Carib (City-Data, 2007) who traded brazil-wood with French traders. The Portuguese settled in 1565 (Wikipedia, 2008aa) but it was frequently invaded by French and Dutch pirates, and to set up a defense, the city was moved to what is now Castle Hill, which is in the current downtown or Central Rio de Janeiro (TASA, 2005).
Sugar cane became the first industry and the city became a port for exporting gold, diamonds, silver and other precious minerals from the neighboring town of Minas Gerais (City-Data, 2007). Around 8,000 natives and Africans became slaves (Wikipedia, 2008aa). The colony’s capital was moved to Rio in 1763 together with the establishment of the Portuguese government in exile in Rio. When this happened, hundreds of noblemen moved to the city with the monarchs of Portugal resulting to the eviction of the local inhabitants to the outskirts of the city (Wikipedia, 2008aa).
With the monarchs in town, new establishments and more improvements were made such as paving and lighting of the streets and reclaiming land (ibid). The city developed from the current Centro or Downtown, southwards and then westwards, with large parts built over reclaimed land. This urban development pattern continues to this day (TASA, 2005). The prosperity in Rio attracted thousands of European immigrants causing the city to expand beyond its protective walls (City-Data, 2007).
Under the rule of Pedro II in 1840, Rio and the rest of Brazil was modernized by the construction of rail, gas lighting, telephone, and steamboat service (City-Data, 2007). The abolishment of slavery by Pedro II was against the wants of the ruling majority and he was overthrown in 1889, and a republic was built. In the republic, Rio became an important industrial center, thus drawing in more people to the city. The vast development of Rio pushed the poorer inhabitants into the hills and the fringes of the city (ibid).
When the country’s capital was moved to Brasilia in 1960 (Wikipedia, 2008aa), Rio still remained an important center for politics, culture and business. Rio continued to grow as Brazilians without jobs or education moved to the city building favelas or shanty towns/squatter settlements, however, this massive immigration ended in the 1980s, but it contributed to the overcrowding, social problems and crime that continue to afflict the city (ibid). Demographics The city of Rio de Janeiro is divided into zones, which characterize different parts of the city.
These zones are Downtown Rio, Northern Zone; South Zone; and West Zone (MS Encarta, 2007; Wikipedia, 2008aa). The basic demographic situation of Rio de Janeiro is described as a place where “the rich live close to the water. The great masses of poor people have been pushed high into the hills” (City-Data, 2007). The great disparity between the rich and the poor is very evident in the city. Several racial classes and religions are also present in the city. Downtown or Centro Rio de Janeiro is the historic center and the central business district of the city (Wikipedia, 2008aa).
Historical sites, cathedrals, museums and theaters are found in this area, as well as financial institutions and government offices. The North Zone houses the Samba Schools of Rio and the International Airport of Rio de Janeiro; a few universities, the Maracana Stadium, a century old biomedical research institution, some tourist and historical attractions, and parks. The South Zone is the major tourist area and is home to Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, and of Sugarloaf Mountain; it is the most famous and richest area of the city (ibid).
The city’s upper and middle class residents live in this area. The West Zone is furthest from the city center, and houses industrial areas and some agricultural areas; it is also where most of the favelas are situated (ibid) and where high rates of crime occurs (IPACOM, 2008). The divide in social class in Rio de Janeiro is very obvious. As one would look at the rich neighborhoods at the Southern Zone by the beach one would immediately see the favelas on the hills beside it where the impoverished sector of Rio lives.
The system of social stratification in Rio and Brazil was originally based on property, but it has evolved to include individuals who acquire special technical skills and knowledge, and are thus able to earn reasonable incomes (Country-Data, 1997). The great number belonging to the middle class emerged in the late 19th Century when slavery was abolished (ibid). The significant number of masses in Rio lies outside those with property and significant skill due to their limited participation in markets and poor access to government services, such as health, education, and sanitation (ibid).
Rio ranks as the second in industrial production in Brazil and it is a major financial and service center (MS Encarta, 2007). Tourism and entertainment are other key aspects of the city’s economic life but revenue from tourism began declining sharply in the late 1980s and early 1990s, partly due to political turmoil and rampant crime in the city (ibid). Local authorities responded to the decline in tourism by creating a special police unit in 1992 to patrol the tourist-frequented areas, especially the Copacabana neighborhood. This, however, left some areas of the city abandoned by the police and thus increased crime (Chang, 2007a).
According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, Rio de Janeiro City has a 6. 1 million population in 2004 and a metropolitan population of more than 11 million in 2003 (ibid; Wikipedia, 2008a) composed of diverse ethnic origins that reflect Rio’s history. It is composed of Portuguese, Spanish, German, Africans, Arabs, Asians and Native American origins (City-Data, 2007; Wikipedia, 2008a). Nearly 2/3 of the population is of African descent, although this reflects the pardos or the mixed races due to intermarriages that have characterized Brazilian society (MS Encarta, 2007).
Majority of the population is also of Catholic religion, which is 60. 71% of the populations. Protestants compose 17. 65% of the populations and people with no religion are at 13. 33 % (Wikipedia, 2008a). People and Culture Rio de Janeiro is the cultural capital of Brazil, and this is reflected in their arts, music, dance and way of life. Museums, theaters and art schools abound the city. It is also the educational center of Brazil, with numerous universities. The city is rich in religious, colonial and modern architecture all mixing with one another in the landscape of Rio’s mountains and sea.
The Christ the Redemeer statue on top of Corcovado Mountain and the Imperial Palace are also in the city (MS Encarta, 2007). The Carnabal and the Carnabal parade, which is famous for its beautiful girls in colorful costumes that dance to samba music and/or parade on floats, is celebrated yearly five days prior to Ash Wednesday (City-Data, 2007; IPACOM, 2008). It is an annual celebration of faith and mysticism in Rio (Tucker, 2007). Lemanja, the Brazilian sea goddess of the Umbanda and Candomble religions, is also celebrated on New Year’s Eve at the Copacabana beach.
Followers wear blue and white and offer flowers that they send out to the sea as an offering to have good luck with the next year’s catch (ibid). The Cariocas or the inhabitants of Rio may be divided by their social status and class, but they have common characteristics such as their energy that thrives on the beauty and movement of their city (Cook, n. d. ). They are described to be sensual, exuberant and fun-loving people (ibid; MS Encarta, 2007). Dancing and music is a way of life for them (ibid); nobody dances more exquisitely or parties as long as the cariocas (City-data, 2007).
They all dance to the same beat of Samba, which is the anthem of the Carnabal (City-Data, 2007). Samba schools abound the city of Rio, particularly in the North Zone, and they host a yearly Sambadrome Parade. Street dancing can also be seen behind bars and on the streets of Rio (MS Encarta, 2007). Bossa Nova was born in the favelas of Rio, and it is the beat commonly heard along the beaches. Being the Friendliest City in the World, they are helpful to tourists and friendly to strangers; they are always smiling and seem to be happy with life (ibid; Harrison, 2003; IPACOM, 2008).
This is due to their history of having waves of immigrants from all over the world settle in their city. They have learned to interact and live among one another (IPACOM, 2008). The beach is the great equalizer for the Cariocas; it doesn’t matter if the resident is rich or poor, they all enjoy the beach (City-Data, 2007) and the laidback way of life it reflects; they rebel on life through the beach. “Time is a flexible concept in Rio” and it is normal for people to be late (IPACOM, 2008). The also have an inborn passion for soccer and volleyball, which is commonly played at the beaches and parks (ibid).
The numerous parks in the city and its 2 urban forests allow the locals recreations such as hiking, climbing, hang-gliding, jogging, walking, and cycling (MS Encarta, 2007). The locals have learned to share space with people with different cultural and social backgrounds. Social values is a survival skill for them, and mingling with each other on the beaches and parks gives tourists a hard time indentifying the millionaire from the poor; this blending in with one another gives the locals their character and charm (IPACOM, 2008). Social Problems & Crime
The social problems in Rio de Janeiro stemmed from its colonial roots when great disparity between the nobles and the lower class started to exist. Poorer ones were moved far from the city center, where to this day some areas do not even have proper water supply and sanitation (Wikipedia, 2008a). The historical development of the city, how the government was and how people treated one another, particularly on the basis of race, all affected the social problems now present in Rio. Discrimination, poverty, drugs, and all sorts of crimes are common and aggravating.
While it is said that racial tolerance and acceptance are often heralded as characteristics of Brazilian society (MS Encarta, 2007), racial discrimination is a problem in Brazil (Chang, 2007b), and this stemmed from the abolishment of slavery and the people of Rio disapproving to it. Majority of the poor are Blacks and of African descent (Wikipedia, 2008a). Whites typically enjoy more privileged social and economic positions than people of African or native descent, although there are some Blacks who hold key political and economic positions (MS Encarta, 2007).
Blacks and native Brazilians’ representation in the upper and middle-class is greatly outnumbered, and this can be seen in as simple as television programming and advertising. Mostly whites live in the wealthier enclaves of the city such as Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon, while mostly blacks live in the favelas that surround the city (City-Data, 2007). The laidback attitude of cariocas struck them hard because this led them to be complacent with street crimes and the social problems that increasingly plagued their city.
The favelas are crowded onto the hillsides, where sturdy buildings are difficult to build, accidents from heavy rainfall are frequent, and access to sanitation and electricity is rare (City-Data, 2007; Wikipedia, 2008a). Bad public education, a poor health system put together with the saturation of the penitentiary system all contribute to the overall poverty of the favelas (Wikipedia, 2008a). The East side of Rio, which is the poorest area that tourists rarely see, gathers the vast majority of Rio’s famished and impoverished masses. The cariocas attitude of fun and frivolity has also led them to the use of drugs.
Drug trafficking in Rio is rampant, with local gangs controlling drugs in their favelas (Photius Coutsoukis, 2004). The music genre of Funk Carioca is even connected to gang territorial dominance in the slums; they fund dance parties or bailes to recruit new members and sell drugs (Wikipedia, 2008a). Its proximity to Bolivia and Colombia also make Brazil and Rio a hotpot for drug trafficking; they operate mostly in the Amazon and other regions. In August 2007, a cocaine processing laboratory in the largest favela in Rio, Rocinha, was raided (UNODC, 2008).
The drug traffickers and these organized crime members hire Brazilian gunmen from states neighboring the Bolivian border to carry out bank robberies or money transportation vehicle hold-ups, to negate the risk of interdiction or theft associated with sending money across Brazil to purchase the cocaine (ibid). Common drugs sold and used are marijuana, cocaine, crack, benzodiazepine; four percent of the prison population in Rio was intravenous drug users prior to imprisonment (Bionde, Veiga, Santos, et al, 1998).
The skewed distribution of income in Rio may be partially responsible for an endemic and increasing problem of nonpolitical crime (Photius Coutsoukis, 2004). In January 2007 alone; 2,727 pedestrians were mugged, 441 public transportations were robbed, and 227 were murdered (China Economic Net [CE. net], 2007). The number of shops robbed in downtown Rio rose by 30% compared to the previous year; 1,945 car break-ins and 1,052 car thefts were also reported. 117 people were also killed in gunfights between the police and gangs (ibid).
Extortion complaints, however, declined by 36. 6% in January 2007, from 863 to 547 (Brayton, 2007). Other crimes committed in the city are car theft, wherein 92% of the population in 1990-1995 said they experienced it; theft from car; car vandalism; theft of motorcycle, where 65% of the population reported it; theft of bicycle; burglary with entry; attempt at burglary; personal theft; sexual incidents and assault threats (Zvekix & Alvazi del Frate, 1995).
It was only in the early 1990s that cariocas lost their complacency and started acting on their social problems, particularly their crimes; this started when the media reported about corrupt police officials and kids from the favelas stealing in the beaches (Wikipedia, 2008a). The city government is currently running a campaign to eliminate all crime by high police presence throughout the city and by having CCTV cameras in many areas, particularly the beaches (Essential Traveler, 2008). Criminological Theories Williams & McShane (2003) discuss several crime theories in their book.
A few of these give explanation to the presence of high crime rates in Rio de Janeiro such as the Conflict theory, Chicago School, Subculture Theory, and Labeling Theory. The Conflict Theory is one of the best ways if not the best way to explain criminality in Rio. It points social and economic forces operating within society as the main causes of crime; the criminal justice system and criminal law are thought to be operating on behalf of the rich and powerful social elites who protect themselves from physical attacks from those who have none (FSU, 2005).
The extreme inequality in the distribution of income in Rio and Brazil gives a small elite control of the wealth and power while a powerless lower class lives at subsistence level (Zona Latina, 2001). Brazil’s ineffective justice systems, where justice is exercised as a privilege of the elite, individual and civil rights are delegitimized, and human rights violations, even by the state, are routine (ibid). The very structure of the system from its colonial past up to its present day, where only a few hold power and abuse it, causes the crimes in Rio de Janeiro.
Police are even accounted for getting involved “in shady business that are close to the extreme edge of law” (Spinelli, 2008) and many cariocas believe “law enforcement agents are the cause of, and not the solution to, the crimes” (Zona Latina, 2001). This is no wonder why 59% of the population feel they are not safe in their own city; the system itself and the society have led some victims to believe that reporting crimes is useless and may even attract retaliation (ibid). The dislodging of the poorer sectors starting from the early 19th century and the unavailability of basic government services to their areas have led to the crimes.
The structure of these communities and the absence of the government in the favelas led to formation of criminals (Chang, 2007a). They have not received basic education; therefore, they will not be able to acquire opportunities that will give them a better life. The Chicago school of thought can also come into play in the latter arguments since it is anchored on urban sociology and links human behavior to social structures and physical environmental factors; the community plays as a major factor in shaping human behavior(Cullen & Agnew, 2002) .
When your community is the favela and you see the rich neighborhoods below yours and you are discriminated and not supported by your own government, you will have a greater tendency to commit crimes, especially when subcultures have come to exist. The rebellious and fun-loving side of the cariocas led them to experiment with drugs, mostly coming from Columbia; the use and trade of drugs together with robberies and/or thefts created a subculture of gangs in the favelas. As seen in the true to life movie City of God, young boys learn how to commit crimes because of the subculture in their favela (Wikipedia, 2008b).
They think that it is normal since that is what they are exposed to and have come to known. This comes from the Subculture theory explanation that when criminal subcultures exist, many individuals can learn to commit crime in one location and crime rates may become very high (Cullen & Agnew, 2002) like that in the Western Zone of Rio, where some favelas are controlled by gangs and many poor, jobless people turn to drug-trafficking, robbery and theft (CE. net, 2007). The labeling of people as Blacks has led them to their discrimination and to the lesser opportunities which have brought them out of the city center and into the favelas.
Labeling people, as stated in the labeling theory, can also stabilized people in criminal roles when they are excluded from conventional roles in society (Cullen & Agnew, 2002). Strategies The very structure of Rio de Janeiro’s society must be changed in order to combat crime. The government must strengthen the justice system, and not just serve the elite. It must get to the people and improve their lives by providing the favelas with basic necessities such as telephone, water, electricity, sanitation, education and health care, and if they have enough to invest in proper housing and jobs.
The military-police force must be trained well to ensure that they combat against the crimes and not sub-cede or promote them. They must not take into violent actions too much or commit corruption otherwise crimes will still prevail since those who enforce it are committing it themselves. They must use the strategy in Sao Paolo where police gather intelligence first about the gangs before they engage in battle with them, and they make the presence of the government in the favelas felt (Chang, 2007a). More CCTV cameras should also be installed.
More non-governmental organizations should also be brought in to try and solve the social problems in Rio de Janeiro. Though the crime problem in the city is daunting, the cariocas have an uncharacteristic optimism that their city will get better (City-Data, 2007). Conclusion Rio de Janeiro has one of the highest crime rates in the world, though it is the friendliest city. The history of the city brought about the creation of favelas on the hills, and the structure of society has pushed away basic government services and job opportunities for those in the favelas.
The carefree and laidback attitude of the cariocas have also led to the increase in crime because of their complacency in dealing with it, and partly because of their societal structure and government policies, thus the conflict theory best explains the rise of crime in Rio, together with the Chicago school of thought. To combat against crime, the very structure and system of government in Rio must be continuously improved together with the favelas. The government must be felt in the favelas and the system must be properly implemented by all its enforcers.
Cariocas with their high optimism believe that their city will continue to advance in its fight against crime. References Bionde, E. J. , Veiga, L. P. , Santos, J. L. , Carvalho, M. L. , de Souza Gomes, J. , Leandro, E. A. , Quitete, B. and Santos, O. N. (1998). Intravenous drug users (IDUs) from the prison system of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – 1998. Int Conf AIDS. 2000 Jul 9-14abstract no. TuOrD319. Brayton, C. (2007). Rio: “Crime statistics show spike in police killings. ” Retrieved March 29, 2008, from http://cbrayton. wordpress. com/2007/07/17/rio-crime-statistics-show-spike-in-police-killings/ Chang, J.
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