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Brazil 2017 Crime & Safety Report: Brasilia

Western Hemisphere > Brazil; Western Hemisphere > Brazil > Brasilia

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Brasilia does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED BRASILIA AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Please review OSAC’s Brazil-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Crime Threats

All forms of crime should be the primary security concern for visitors to Brazil, particularly in the country’s larger cities, to include Brasilia. In Brasilia, robbery, assault, burglary, and theft are more common crime concerns for foreigners and Brazilians alike. Foreigners are not immune to crime, and American citizens – both private and official – have been victimized. Many criminals use (knives, handguns) to carry out illicit activities. Do not physically resist any robbery attempt. While this is a personal decision, statistics show that resistance can lead to injury/death.

One timeframe of concern in which all travelers should be extra cautious is December-January, when Brazil experiences an increase in crime in general, attributable to: Brazil’s system of prison furloughs that allows for prisoner leave during the holidays, a higher percentage of police officers on annual leave, and that citizens receive a “13th month” salary bonus in December and are, therefore, in possession of more disposable income. Vacant homes and apartments are also more frequently targeted for burglary during these two months.

Residential burglaries pose a constant concern. According to the police, much of this crime is carried out by mobile street gangs. Other perpetrators are from the surrounding satellite cities and travel by metro, bus, or car into the neighborhoods looking for targets of opportunity.

  • In September 2016, an attempted residential robbery targeted a U.S. Mission residence during daylight hours; security countermeasures (grilles, locks) proved effective in thwarting the attempted break-in, and the resident was able to call for police assistance. 
  • In January 2015, in Brasilia, a group of juvenile assailants broke into an occupied house in the affluent area of South Lake and sequestered the home owner, gardener, and cook. They took numerous pieces of gold, other valuables, TVs, and his vehicle.

The RSO advises that residences provide solid-core entry doors with quality deadbolts, peepholes, security grilles on all windows, adequate front/rear lighting, and a monitored alarm system. Business and home surveillance camera systems are effective deterrents against property crimes in Brasilia. Most residential properties, especially single family homes, also utilize security alarm systems. These systems are monitored by local security companies that respond with local police. Some neighborhoods employ static guard posts to monitor activity on the streets adjacent to their homes. Larger properties and commercial sites generally employ 24/7 security guard services.

Public transportation hubs, hotel sectors, and tourist areas have the highest crime rates. In particular, bus stations in/around the Brasilia downtown area remain a concern; pickpockets and armed robberies occur in these locations more frequently than in other areas of the city.

  • Between January and October 2015, over 2,300 crimes were reported at bus stations in the Federal District and surrounding areas.

     

  • Caution is required when travelling at night through more rural areas and satellite cities, due to the significant potential for roadside robberies.

    Foreign visitors may be susceptible to targeting for certain crimes in part because visitors may be less likely to file a police report and/or return to testify at criminal proceedings should perpetrators be apprehended by police.

    Do not accept drinks from strangers and always watch your drink. Scopolamine, or a similar drug, may be added to your drink. People have woken up robbed or sexually assaulted after accepting contaminated a drink.

    Be careful of cash transactions on the street. A hurried transaction for merchandise often leaves the customer with shoddy/counterfeit goods/money.

    Organized crime remains a fact of life in Brazil, and is especially prevalent in the periphery communities where they often act with impunity, controlling large areas of these communities, serving as a de facto government in many, filling the void where Brazilian government and police refuse, or are unable to enter. Organized crime in Brasilia does exist but on a smaller scale compared to other cities, especially Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, which have major drug gangs that operate mainly in the periphery communities. There have been re-alignments between some of the major gangs in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janerio, with the fallout from these moves manifesting into extremely violent outbursts in the federal prisons.

  • In January 2017, there were a number of events resulting in the death and beheading of over 70 prisoners in Manaus and Fortaleza over a two-day span by rival gangs.

     

  • Cybersecurity Issues

    Brazil continues to rank as one of the most pervasive cybercrime environments worldwide. Brazilian cybercriminals have grown more brazen, stealing billions of dollars annually despite new legislation and official efforts to stop malicious activity online. The banking sector has been the primary target of these operations; however, cybercrime also affects daily Internet users, private-sector organizations, and short-term travelers. OSAC constituents should maintain awareness of popular schemes to avoid becoming cybercrime victims.

    In addition to the high volume of online banking, the World Bank reports that Brazil has one of the highest concentrations of ATM terminals worldwide. Local cybercriminals are known to target hardware (terminals) to obtain credit card and banking information. Trend Micro observed hackers compromising portable point-of-sale systems to obtain the information stored in the magnetic strip of a credit card as it is swiped for payment. Because this scheme often requires access to the payment hardware, researchers noted it requires insider access. In one case, waiters at exclusive restaurants were given a cut of the stolen money for using compromised point-of-sale machines with their customers.

    OSAC constituents should be aware of the heightened risk to their credit card information. Cybersecurity companies often note that, while still vulnerable, Chip-and-PIN cards are more secure and harder to clone than magnetic swipe cards; however, it is advised that personnel monitor their credit card usage to ensure their card is not cloned during their travels. Common counter-measures should be utilized by visitors including: inspecting the façade of an ATM for unusual or suspicious devices/equipment, review bank statements regularly, ensure the card reader is brought to you and used in your presence. Always use an ATM in a lighted and public area, and never let someone ‘assist’ you with the transaction. 

    Other Areas of Concern

    Do not walk on beaches or in parks after dark. Assaults are common in these areas.

    The areas in/around the hotel sector can be dangerous, especially at night.

    The satellite cities around Brasilia are considered unsafe and should be avoided at night.

    Transportation-Safety Situation

    Road Safety and Road Conditions

    Road conditions outside of the main cities vary greatly. Road conditions range from extremely poor to good, and accidents are always a concern outside of major cities. Brazil uses automatic photo-ticketing systems to discourage speeding, and tickets are mailed to the owner of the vehicle. When traveling in rural areas and in satellite cities, drivers also must pay close attention to pot holes and speed bumps. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

    The surface conditions of the roads in Brasilia are generally poor, with numerous pot holes, some of which, during the rainy season, can cause significant damage to a vehicle’s suspension system. Lighting, traffic signals, and road markings vary from good to poor.

    Manaus is isolated within the state of Amazonas with no major highway system linking it with the rest of Brazil. Within the city itself, roads are generally fair.

    Public Transportation Conditions

    Avoid public transportation. Many buses pass through high-crime areas and are susceptible to robberies. In 2014, Brasilia placed new buses into the fleet to demonstrate an attempt to modernize public transportation. This, however, is not the reality when traveling between cities - it is not advisable to take bus transportation while traveling in/around Brazil due to mechanical issues and high crime rates.

  • In Brasilia in 2015, two armed juveniles, during daylight hours, robbed a bus full of passengers.

    In Brasilia and most urban centers in Brazil, some of the highest incidents of assault and robbery occur on buses and other mass transportation. One of the areas that sees the most crime is the Rodoviara (central bus station).  

    Only use legitimate, well-marked taxis, which are white or silver with green and yellow stripes. 

    Aviation/Airport Conditions

    Reports of cargo theft, from both overland shipments and from storage facilities, occur frequently. Airports countrywide inaugurated supplemental security measures, in part to thwart criminal activity targeting aviation facilities. 

    Terrorism Threat

    THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED BRASILIA AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

    Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

    The tri-border area (where Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay join) is a known hub of organized crime, narcotics, and weapon smuggling. No incidents directed at Americans have occurred in this area. It is recommended that American visitors to the area, to include Foz de Iguazu, remain especially vigilant and maintain a low profile.

    There are no known indigenous terrorist groups operating in Brazil. Brazil is a non-aligned country with no significant enemies.

    During the Summer Olympic Games, Brazilian authorities disrupted a terrorist cell that had pledged allegiance to ISIS. While the cell was considered ‘amateur’ by the Brazilian authorities, the incident belies the mounting concern authorities have of possible ISIS influenced terrorist events. This incident represented one of the first prosecutions under a new counter-terrorism statute. 

    Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

    THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED BRASILIA AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

    Civil Unrest

    Political violence is possible in any major city of Brazil. There were numerous protests during 2016 in Brasilia related to a variety of grievances: salary disparity, poor health care, a sub-standard education system, corruption. While the majority of these protests were peaceful, violence did occur in a few instances. Economic conditions may contribute to civil unrest, protests, and strikes, as Brazil is experiencing its longest, deepest recession since the 1930s. While inflation has steadily declined over 2016, the inflation rate had risen above 10% earlier in 2016. With additional tax increases proposed by the government to resolve a budget deficit, middle class and other economically vulnerable groups will experience greater economic stress in 2017.

    In Brasilia, there have been a number of protests regarding the newly formed government’s attempts to correct their economy by raising prices for basic services (bus fare, price increases for public services) while also reducing the protections and minimum salaries that were put into place by the PT government over the past decade. The vast majority of protests and demonstrations take place on the Esplanda area. 

    Protests can form with little notice, and it is advised that travelers avoid protest areas due to recent clashes with police, deployment of tear gas, and destruction of property (burning city buses/portable toilets on the main roadways).

    Post-specific Concerns

    Environmental Hazards

    Significant flooding does occur during the rainy season. Flooding, and associated mudslides, have become a serious problem in the states of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

    Critical Infrastructure

    Brazil is one of Latin America’s leading digital nations. Over 50% of Brazilians are active Internet users, and Brazilian financial institutions were early adopters of online services. Cybersecurity and online fraud are major concerns, with annual losses reaching billions of dollars. Government websites have been defaced and taken offline by hacktivists in recent years. The Brazilian army is responsible for defending critical cyber infrastructure, and Brazil’s Computer Emergency Response Team monitors and addresses general cyber security incidents. Given Brazil’s highly networked economy and the fact that authorities still are developing cyber doctrine and capabilities, analysts note critical infrastructure risks.

    Economic Concerns

    The risk of economic espionage is not particularly high in Brazil, but other intellectual property rights (IPR) issues continue to challenge U.S. companies. Brazil is on the U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 “Watch List” due to high levels of counterfeiting and piracy, including online piracy. Illicit goods enter Brazil over its extensive land/sea borders, with the tri-border area of particular concern. Some local police forces make concerted efforts to combat sales of counterfeit and pirated goods at markets, but offenders frequently are let off with minimal penalties.

    Concerns also persist with respect to Brazil’s inadequate protection against unfair commercial use of undisclosed test and other data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical and agricultural chemical products.

    Privacy Concerns

    A bill in Brazil’s congress has aroused privacy concerns by proposing to force Internet users to divulge their identities when visiting websites. Meanwhile, Brazil is developing sweeping legislation addressing the use and protection of individuals’ personal data; the current draft bill appears to strike a middle ground between the EU’s restrictive model and the more commercially permissive U.S. approach. This bill was proposed at the Brazilian Congress in May 2016 but has yet to be accepted.

    Personal Identity Concerns

    Brazil’s federal law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, but several states and municipalities have administrative regulations that prohibit such discrimination and provide for equal access to government services. Social discrimination remains a problem, especially against the transgender population. 

    The law prohibits racial discrimination, specifically the denial of public/private facilities, employment, or housing, to anyone based on race. The law also prohibits the incitement of racial discrimination/prejudice and the dissemination of racially-offensive symbols/epithets, stipulating prison terms for hate crimes.

    The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical/mental disabilities in employment, air travel/other transportation, education, and access to health care, and the federal government generally enforced these. 

    Drug-related Crimes

    Brazil is the number two powder cocaine consumer in the world and the number one crack cocaine consumer. Brazil also has the highest cocaine user rate per capita in the world. All the major cities of Brazil experience the effects of persons addicted to illicit drugs, including criminal activity (street assaults, robberies) for which the proceeds are used to support their addictions. The critical crime in Brazil’s major cities is inextricably tied to the country’s drug trade, from common street assaults by addicts, to wars between drug cartels that manifest violently in the prison systems and marginalized communities.

    Kidnapping Threat

    There have been few incidents of this crime in Brasilia, although they do occur; in the Federal District, from January-October 2016, seven reported quicknappings were registered with the local police. While Brazilians are most often targeted, all foreigners are vulnerable to this crime. Criminals are determined and sophisticated, which requires visitors to be alert to their surroundings. Visitors can reduce their risk of becoming a victim of crime by varying routes and times of travel, and ensuring residences are sufficiently protected. Family members/household help should not allow anyone to enter the residential grounds without identification and prearranged appointments. Suspicious persons or activities in the neighborhood should be reported to the police immediately.

    Police Response

    Police officials frequently cited lack of resources, staff, and basic equipment and low morale as reasons for widely varying response times and unsolved crimes. However, local police are sufficiently equipped to respond to/deter crimes and conduct investigations. The Policia Militar within the Federal District are some of the most highly paid uniformed agencies in Brazil. Other police units and agencies are not as well-funded or equipped (Federal District Civil Police). In particular, during the lead up to the 2016 Olympics, there were a number of police strikes to demonstrate their unhappiness with the wage structure, especially within the Policia Civil. In Brasilia, the governor signaled his willingness to negotiate higher salaries, and the police have since returned to work.

    How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

    Visitors should inform the nearest Embassy/Consulate in the event they encounter problems while traveling in Brazil, including detainment or arrest by the police.

    Crime Victim Assistance

     

    Brasilia Emergency Services

    Telephone

    Rio Branco Battalion/Federal District

    (61) 3248-1335/1368 (24HR)

    Police Precinct/Lago Sul

    (61) 3364-3626 (24HR)

    Police Precinct/Asa Sul

    (61) 3245-1567 (24HR)

    Police Precinct/Asa Norte

    (61) 3273-0101/0335 (24HR)

    Civil Police

    199 or (61) 3363-1358

    Fire Department

    190 or 193

    Ambulance

    192

     

    Manaus Emergency Services

    Telephone

    Police

    190

    Fire Department

    193

    Ambulance

    192

    Civil Police

    197 or (92) 3612-3122

    Police/Security Agencies

    Military Police are responsible for enforcement and visible policing but are not affiliated with the Brazilian Ministry of Defense. The Military Police units, which have their own formations, rules, and uniforms depending on the state, are responsible for maintaining public order across the country including the Federal District and Brasilia. Deployed solely to act as a deterrent against the commission of crime, units do not conduct criminal investigations.

    Detective work, forensics, and prosecutions are undertaken by a state's Civil Police. Each of the states of Brazil has its own Civil Police Department, which carries out investigative work, forensics and criminal investigation, acting as a state bureau of investigation, while the Military Police carries out preventive police duties. 

    The Federal Police are responsible for crimes against federal institutions, international drug trafficking, terrorism, cyber-crime, organized crime, public corruption, white-collar crime, money laundering, immigration, border control, airport security and maritime policing. It is subordinate to the federal Ministry of Justice.

    Medical Emergencies

    Contact Information for Available Medical Services

    Brasilia

  • Hospital Santa Lucia, located at W3 Sul 716, Conjunto C in the Asa Sul Section. Tel: (61) 3445-0000.
  • Hospital Brasilia, located at SHIS QI 15, TR. 5, Lote G. Tel: (61) 3248-9000.
  • Hospital de Base (Trauma Care), located at SMHS 101, Bloco A, in the Asa Sul Section. Tel (61) 3325-4080/5050.
  • Hospital Santa Helena : Shln Quadra 516 Conjunto D - Asa Norte, Brasília - DF, 73015-132, Brazil Tel: +55 61 3215-0000

For private, ground-ambulance service -- Vida Ambulance (61) 3248-3030.

 

Manaus

  • Hospital Adventista De Manaus – Dist. Industrial   located at Av. Governador Danilo Areosa, 139 – Distrito Industrial, Manaus - AM, 69075-351. Tel (92) 2123-1311.
  • Hospital Joao Lucio – Bario S. Jose, located at Alameda Cosme Ferreira, 3937 – Bario S. Jose, Manaus - AM, 69083-000. Tel: (92) 3249-9050/3249-9051.
  • Hospital Pronto Socorro Municipal 28 Agosto – Adrianopolis, located at Av. Mario    Ypyranga, 1581 - Adrianopolis, Manaus - AM, 69057-002. Tel: (92) 3643-7143.

Available Air Ambulance Services

For air medical evacuation services, the Embassy recommends visitors purchase private air medical evacuation insurance before traveling. The Embassy can assist visitors with further information about obtaining services available.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Brazil.

OSAC Country Council Information

There is currently no active Country Council in Brasilia. Please contact OSAC’s Western Hemisphere team if you are interested in private-sector engagement in Brasilia or have questions about OSAC’s Country Council programs.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

American Embassy Brasilia - is located at Av. Das Nações Sul, Quadra 801, Lote 3.

Hours of Operation are 0800 – 1700.

Embassy Contact Numbers

Switchboard: +55 (61) 3312-7000.

Marine Security Guard: +55 (61) 3312-7400

Use for emergencies and calls after normal business hours

RSO: extension 7390

American Citizen Service Section: extension 7063 or 7471. 

Foreign Commercial Officer: extension 7403

Website: https://br.usembassy.gov

Nearby Posts

Consulate Rio de Janeiro: http://riodejaneiro.usconsulate.gov/

Consulate Sao Paulo: http://saopaulo.usconsulate.gov/

Consulate Recife: http://recife.usconsulate.gov/

Embassy Guidance

U.S. companies are encouraged to contact the RSO in Brasilia for specific inquiries concerning the local security situation. Information is also readily available from the Regional Security Offices in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Recife, the American Chamber of Commerce, and from the active OSAC Country Councils operating in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

Additional Resources

Brazil Country Information Sheet