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Brazil 2013 Crime and Safety Report: São Paulo

Western Hemisphere > Brazil > Sao Paulo

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The U.S. Department of State rates the criminal threat for São Paulo as “critical.” Although statistics show that crime is decreasing in some areas, crime levels in the state of São Paulo remain high. Much of São Paulo’s crime and violence can be attributed to mobile street gangs and organized crime groups operating throughout the state. Notably, an underground battle between the Military Police (Policia Militar or “PM”) and the First Capitol Command (PCC) gang reignited in the past year. 

The crimes of most concern to consulate employees and Americans in Brazil include "express" kidnappings, carjackings, virtual kidnappings and home/restaurant invasions. Express kidnappings occur when criminals force their kidnapped victims to extract their daily cash limit from an ATM machine or hold them hostage while they use their credit cards until they are deactivated. Many incidents of robbery and express kidnappings occur outside of banks and ATM machines. The wealthy or those who are perceived as financially affluent remain the most attractive targets for professional criminals. Virtual kidnappings are a telephone scam designed to coax potential victims to pay a ransom even though no one has been kidnapped. Home invasions involve large groups of heavily armed criminals who take over houses or apartment complexes and rob the owners or occupants. Home/complex invasions usually are well planned and involve the assistance of a person on the inside or a scam (such as impersonating police, mail carriers, or potential homeowners) to gain access. Most criminals use weapons to carry out these crimes. In one particular incident, in a Jardim Paulista neighborhood where some U.S. Consulate employees reside, 12 armed criminals invaded an apartment building. Reportedly, a couple of criminals in the gang overcame the doorman who was forced to open the garage door giving access to the rest of the gang. The gang robbed three apartments, stealing a large amount of money, electronics, and jewelry. Restaurant invasions continue to be a pervasive problem in the more affluent areas of the city, and they target everything from traditional restaurants, snack bars, cafes, to sushi bars. Statistics have shown that the gang has a propensity to focus on those with no security personnel and between the hours of 2100 to 2400hrs during the weekdays. Normally, the invasions do not last more than five minutes, and usually no patron is harmed during the act. As a case in point, in the early morning hours, three criminals invaded a Temaki restaurant in Morumbi and robbed all the customers, making it the second time this place was hit in 10 days. The restaurant is only two kilometers from a police precinct. Common practice in São Paulo is to not resist an attempted robbery. Victims of robberies who resist a criminal’s demands have often been harmed for their noncompliance. 

São Paulo continues to experience violent crimes such as murder, rape, and kidnappings, as well as armed assaults and burglaries. Every São Paulo neighborhood is susceptible to crime. Reports of armed robberies continue to occur regularly in the affluent residential sections of Jardins, Morumbi, Itaim Bibi, Moema, and Santo Amaro, where a number of government and business leaders and a majority of the U.S. Consulate employees reside. 

Overall Road Safety Situation

Crime on the road remains a problem for both visitors and local residents alike, especially during evening travel and traffic jams. Chases in traffic, though random, can occur anywhere in the city and are financially motivated. According to one police report in Moema, a car full of criminals preyed on one particular businessman, chasing him from Itaim to Morumbi. Though he was able to escape, he received a couple bullet wounds from the attack. Travelers are advised to use extreme caution during evening travel to evade roadside robberies that target passing and stopped vehicles. It is important that drivers pay attention to their surroundings, and keep doors locked and windows rolled up when stopped in traffic. 

In addition to crime, roads in São Paulo are subject to flooding during rainstorms. Please stay tuned to local weather reports and road conditions during severe weather.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence 

The threat of political violence remains a possibility as São Paulo periodically hosts public demonstrations. While the vast majority of these protests are peaceful, violence can flare up, resulting in disturbances, property damage, and increased police activity. All visitors are urged to exercise caution when approaching crowds and avoid areas where protests are being held.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

In 2006, São Paulo prison gangs revolted against state security forces, and the conflict spilled out into the streets. The violence was mainly the work of one organization, the First Capitol Command (PCC), a violent prison gang that allegedly controls the majority of illegal contraband and drugs coming in and out of the prisons in São Paulo. The PCC returned to the center stage in 2012 with a fresh wave of attacks against the Military Police officers in so much that the federal government has raised the crime threat level in Sao Paulo. Toward the end of 2012, Military Police statistics showed a 40 percent increase in police officer deaths from 2011. Since the PCC is armed and has expanded its influence countrywide, it poses a serious threat to security forces. In the 17-day long outbreak of violence perpetrated by the PCC in Sao Paulo in 2012, 13 buses were burned, a police base was attacked, and two ATM machines were destroyed in explosions leaving six police officers dead. Aside from this attack, the Military Police had various shootouts with the PCC, several other police bases were attacked, and a list of over 100 officers’ names was sold to the PCC by rogue cops.  

Civil Unrest

There are occasional protests and strikes that are preannounced on the media and may cause delays in traffic and could cause a disturbance in peace.

Religious or Ethnic Violence 

Religious and ethnic violence is a nonfactor since Brazil is relatively open to all religions and though some racism may exist in some circles, it is not as prevalent as in other countries.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Natural disasters such as earthquakes are not a significant problem in Brazil; however, flooding plagues São Paulo state and many other parts of the country.

Severe rainstorms have occurred annually since 2006, causing flooding in São Paulo, with fatalities, homes destroyed, and bridges and highways closed. Congonhas Airport in downtown São Paulo is particularly susceptible to heavy rainstorms. In 2012, some flood waters reportedly carried several types of diseases, such as hepatitis, tetanus, and other viruses.

Industrial and Transportation Accidents

As the economic and commercial center of the country, as well as the most populated, São Paulo is subject to industrial and transportation incidents. Vehicle accidents carrying hazardous chemicals are known to occur on the major highways of São Paulo, shutting roadways for significant periods of time until the area can be cleared and sanitized. The city’s underground rail system has also experienced mishaps throughout the years, including electrical outages and train stoppages. In addition, São Paulo has had a number of helicopter accidents. The city reportedly has over 400 helicopters in circulation, one of the highest rates of any city in the world.

Economic Espionage/Intellectual Property Thefts

As of yet, this type of threat is not seen in Brazil.

Privacy Concerns

There are no privacy matters that may be a cause for concern.

Regional Travel Concerns and Restricted Travel Areas/Zones

There are no travel restrictions throughout the country.

Drug-related Crimes

São Paulo experiences the harmful effects of illicit drug trafficking. In 2011, the quantity of drugs captured by the police in the Guarulhos International airport reached a new record. 2012 saw no decline in drug trafficking. At the end of 2012, there were reports of a daylong conference call from prison discussing the drug trafficking routes in São Paulo and how to improve drug operations throughout the city and state of São Paulo.

Kidnapping Threats

The majority of kidnappings in São Paulo continue to be "express" events. The criminals will abduct someone, usually a Brazilian citizen, for a short time in order to receive a quick payoff from the family, business, or the victim's ATM or credit card. In some cases, they will take the victim shopping if their ATM cash limit has already been met. Foreigners, including Americans, are vulnerable to this crime. 

Virtual kidnappings remain one of the most common scams perpetrated by criminals in São Paulo. In these cases, criminals make a random telephone call to an unsuspecting family, claiming that a family member has been abducted. They invariably demand a ransom. In reality, no family member has been taken, but the criminals often manage to elicit important information from the distraught family members, taking advantage of their emotional state to generate a ransom payment. In some cases, the criminals play recordings in the background of children or others crying for help.  

Police Response

Police response, both from the Military Police (Policia Militar or “PM”) and civil police, varies. Police authorities cite a lack of resources among the key reasons why response times are not always optimal and why many crimes go unsolved. Brazilian law enforcement entities continue to look for creative policing strategies to overcome infrastructure challenges to crime prevention, such as community policing stations in favelas (slums) and the use of motorcycle, helicopter, and cavalry units. The government of São Paulo is engaged in a concerted effort to recruit and train more police officers in preparation for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment 

Americans who are detained by the police should have an opportunity to contact friends or family. Take this opportunity to contact the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia or the U.S. Consulates in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, or Recife. Harassment is not common with foreigners. Should it occur, you should report the incident to U.S. government authorities.

Where to Turn to for Assistance if you Become a Victim of Crime

National Emergency Services

National Emergency Services

Telephone

Medical Emergency (ambulância)

Tel: 192

Fire Service (Corpo de Bombeiros)

Tel: 193

National Police (Polícia Civil)

Tel: 197

Military Police of São Paulo (Polícia Militar do Estado de São Paulo)

Tel: 190

Federal Police (Polícia Federal)

Tel: (11) 3616 5000

Sea Rescue (Salvamento Marítimo)

Tel: (21) 2104 6119

Crisis & Helplines 

Service

Telephone

Drug Abuse/Narcotics Anonymous (Narcoticos Anônimos

Tel: (11) 3101 9626

HIV/AIDS (Disque Saude)
Monday to Friday
08:00-18:00

Tel: 0800 162 550

Alcoholics Anonymous (Alcoólicos Anônimos)

Tel: (11) 3315 9333

Child Abuse (Centro de Referência da Criança e Adolescente - CECRIA)

Tel: (11) 3104 4850

Defense of Abused Women (Delegacia de Defesa da Mulher)

Tel: 180
Tel: (11) 3976 2908

Suicide/Crisis Line (CVV)

Tel: 141

Children's Helpline (SOS Criança)

Tel: 1407

Poison Control/Anti-Poison Centre (Centro de Controle de Intoxicações)

Tel: 0800 771 3733
Tel: (11) 5012 5311

São Paulo Emergency Services and Useful Numbers

Service

Telephone

São Paulo Civilian Guard (Guarda Civil Metropolitana)

Tel: (11) 3191 3300

São Paulo Traffic (Polícia Rodoviaria Federal)

Tel: 1551
Tel: (11) 2795 2300

São Paulo Red Cross (Cruz Vermelha Brasileira)

Tel: (11) 5056 8710

Report a Crime (Denuncie

Tel: 181

Dengue Information Line (Disque Dengue)

Tel: (11) 6224 5500

Funeral Service (Servico Funerario do Municipio de São Paulo (24-hours-a-day)

Tel: 0800 109 850

São Paulo Prefeitura

Tel: 156

Human Rights Centre (Centro dos Direitos Humanos)

Tel: (11) 3120 2890

Report Unsanitary Conditions (Vigilância Sanitária)

Tel: (11) 3065 4600

Citizen Service Centres (Poupatempo)

Tel: 0800 772 36 33

Lost and Found

Tel: 159

São Paulo Tourist Police (DEATUR)

 

Specialised service providing help and information to tourists 

At: Rua São Bento 380

Tel: (11) 3107 5642 / 3107 8332

At: Av. Olavo Fontoura 1209, Parque Anhembi

Tel: (11) 6226 0653 / 6226 0664

At: Rua Dr. João Jamil Zarif s/nº,  Cumbica /Guarulhos

Tel: (11) 6445 3064 / 6445 2686

Medical Emergencies

Contact Information for Recommended Local Hospitals and Clinics

Hospitals

 

HC Hospital das Clínicas  
At
: Av. Dr. Enéas de Carvalho Aguiar 255 
Instituto da Criança do Hospital das Clínicas (Children's A&E department)

Tel: (11) 3069 6000

Tel: (11) 3069 8500

Hospital Alemão Oswaldo Cruz 
At
: Rua João Julião 331, Paraíso

Tel: (11)3549 0300

Albert Einstein Hospital
At: Av. Albert Einstein 627/701,  Morumbi

Tel: (11) 3747 1233

São Luiz Hospital
At
: Eng. Oscar Americano St. 840, Morumbi

Tel: (11) 3093 1100

Hospital Santa Cruz
At
: Rua Santa Cruz 398, Vila Mariana

Tel: (11) 5080 2000

Hospital Samaritano
At
: Rua Conselheiro Brotero 1486, Higienopolis

Tel: (11) 3821 5300

Hospital Bandeirantes 
At
: Rua Galvão Bueno 257, Liberdade

Tel: (11) 3345 2000

Beneficência Portuguesa 
At
: Rua Maestro Cardim 769, Paraiso

Tel: (11) 3253 5022

Sírio Libanês 
At
: Rua Adma Jafet 91, Bela Vista

Tel: (11) 3155 0200

Hospital Santa Catarina 
At
: Av Paulista 200, Bela Vista 1

Tel: (11) 3053 661

Hospital São Paulo 
At
: Rua Napoleão de Barros 737

Tel: (11) 5576 4621

Hospital Aviccena 
At
: Rua Pe Adelino 901, Vila Verde

Tel: (11) 2605 3941

Pronto Socorro Infantil Sabará (Sabará Children’s Emergency Clinic)
At: Rua Dona Antonio de Queiros 505, Consolação

Tel: (11) 3155 2800


CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

Brazil is experiencing an uptick, some 200,000 cases, in Dengue fever infections. General mosquito bite defense is the key avoiding all of the mosquito-borne diseases endemic to the region. There is no prophylactic medication that can be taken to prevent Dengue. Avoiding the times of day when mosquitos are most active, wearing long sleeves, adequate sleeping arrangements, and appropriate mosquito repellents on skin and clothing and imbedded in bed nets are the most effective defenses. For specific vaccination and health guidance, please visit the CDC at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/brazil.htm.

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Best Security Practices 

Taxis and private vehicles should be used when moving within the city of São Paulo. Even while driving, motorists can be vulnerable to armed bandits on motorcycles who prey on potential victims waiting at traffic lights or in traffic. Utilizing tinted windows, keeping windows rolled up and valuables out of sight are the best defenses against this type of random criminal activity.

São Paulo's International Airport is subject to crime. Reports of crimes against travelers along the road to the airport sometimes occur, as criminals look to identify potential targets of wealth and affluence as they arrive and depart. Laptop computers and expensive jewelry are the top tier targets for thieves and criminals. Travelers should seek to use alternative and more concealable means of transporting information, such as thumb drives or CD/DVD ROMs. If laptops are brought, they should be stored discretely in luggage and/or placed in the trunk of a vehicle.  

Also avoid all Sao Paulo adult nightclubs. These clubs have been known to swindle patrons by tricking them into purchasing bottles of alcohol without disclosing the actual price of the drinks, at times running up to US$1,000 per bottle. Patrons who refuse to pay have been physically harassed and their credit cards taken.  

Visitors should practice common-sense preventive security techniques, just as they would in any large metropolitan city in the world where crime is prevalent. Below are some tips visitors should follow to avoid becoming a potential crime victim:

Do not carry or wear valuable items that will attract the attention of thieves. If you need to wear expensive jewelry or carry a camera, conceal it until you arrive at your destination. 

Do not physically resist any robbery attempt. Statistics show that resistance can lead to severe consequences, such as injury or death.

If possible, avoid city buses and other public transportation. Many pass through high crime areas and are susceptible to robberies. In 2006, a public bus was high-jacked near the consulate, and all the occupants on board were robbed. The incident ended in a shoot-out with police. A similar incident occurred in 2010, but no shoot-out occurred. 

Only use taxis at taxi stands, or have your hotel call one for you directly.

Be aware of the street environment and avoid contact with those looking for potential crime targets. Seek a safer location. Go into a store, bank, or simply cross the street and alter your route. 

Use well-traveled, well-illuminated streets. Always plan your routes before you leave for your final destination. 

U.S. Embassy/Consulate Location and Contact Information 

United States Consulate General São Paulo:
Rua Thomas Deloney 381
Chacara Santo Antonio
São Paulo-SP, 04710-110
The telephone switchboard number is (011-55) (11) 5186-7000.
The Regional Security Officer may be reached at (011-55) (11) 5186-7260. 
The consulate's fax number is (011-55) (11) 5186-7099.
Emergencies calls after normal hours may be directed to Post One at (011-55) (11) 5186-7000. 
American Citizen Services hours are 8:30am-11:30am Monday-Friday, 2pm-3:30pm Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

U.S. organizations are encouraged to contact the Regional Security Officer (RSO) in São Paulo for specific inquiries concerning the local security situation. Information is also available from the active OSAC Country Council operating in São Paulo. 

OSAC Country Council Information

The U.S. Consulate General has a vibrant and proactive OSAC Country Council with over 100 members, including major U.S. companies in many industries. The Council meets monthly at venues throughout São Paulo. The RSO attends all Council meetings to engage in roundtable discussions with members. The Council takes an active role on all issues of crime and security in São Paulo and surrounding areas, including outreach to public officials for speaking engagements, training seminars, as well as an extensive email network to promote ideas and facilitate the exchange of information and contacts. Country Council information can be located, via password, at the OSAC website at: www.osac.gov/countrycouncils.