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Brazil 2014 Crime and Safety Report: São Paulo

Western Hemisphere > Brazil; Western Hemisphere > Brazil > Sao Paulo

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The State Department divides its roles and responsibilities in Brazil between four Consular Districts spread across the country (one for the Embassy and each of the three Consulates). This Crime and Safety Report focuses on U.S. Consulate General São Paulo’s district, which is comprised of the states of São Paulo, Parana, Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul, and Mato Grosso do Sul. For more information regarding the security environment in other areas of Brazil, please reference the OSAC Crime and Safety Reports from the following Consular Districts: Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, and Recife.

The crime threat rating for São Paulo and all of Brazil as rated by the U.S. Department of State is Critical. Recent statistics show that crime has decreased in some areas, yet crime levels in the State of São Paulo remain high. Much of São Paulo’s crimes and violence can be attributed to street gangs and organized crime groups operating throughout the state. São Paulo continues to experience violent crimes such as murder, rape, kidnappings, armed assaults, and burglaries. All neighborhoods within the city of São Paulo are susceptible to crime. There are daily reports of armed robberies that occur regularly in the affluent residential sections of Jardims, Morumbi, Campo Belo, and Moema where a number of government and business leaders and a majority of the U.S. Consulate employees reside.

Crime Threats

Laptop computers are the number-one target of thieves and criminals in São Paulo.

The crimes of greatest concern to Consulate employees and American citizens in Brazil include "express" kidnappings, carjacking, virtual kidnapping, and home/restaurant invasions.

Express kidnappings occur when criminals force their kidnapped victims to extract their daily cash limit from an ATM or hold them hostage while they use their credit cards until they are deactivated. (See Kidnapping Threats for more)

That said, credit card fraud is rising at an alarming rate. Recent activities suggest that having a dinner at a nice restaurant or buying merchandise at a retail outlet could result in your credit card being scammed. Credit card fraud has affected several Consulate employees under similar conditions.

Home invasions/burglaries are also a major concern. Home invasions involve large groups of heavily armed criminals who take over houses or apartment complexes and rob the occupants. Home/apartment invasions are usually 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. Criminals often use weapons to carry out these crimes. This criminal tactic is also used in restaurant invasions in the neighborhoods of Moema, Jardims, and Campo Belo. A specific gang is tied to this type of crime, and they target all sorts of restaurants in the area. Statistics have shown that the gang has a propensity to go after less affluent restaurants that have no security personnel and between the hours of 2200 to 0200 during the weekdays. The gang operates in groups of three or four armed personnel who strike quickly and decisively. Invasions do not last more than five minutes, and usually no patron is harmed during the act. According to the police, much of this crime is carried out by mobile street gangs, originating from distant cities, such as Brasilia and Rio, and targets some of the residential areas of São Paulo. Other perpetrators are from the surrounding satellite cities and travel by metro, bus, or car into the neighborhoods looking for targets of opportunity. Armed street robberies are also common.

Many incidents of robbery and express kidnappings occur outside of banks and ATMs. The wealthy or those who are perceived as financially affluent remain the most attractive targets for professional criminals. There is no evidence to suggest that thieves are targeting any specific nationality or ethnicity.

Overall Road Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Roads in São Paulo are subject to flooding during rainstorms. Throughout Brazil, road conditions outside of the main cities vary greatly. Brail uses automatic photo-ticketing systems to discourage speeding, and tickets are mailed to the owner of the vehicle.

Many city buses 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.

Crime on the road remains a problem for both visitors and local residents alike, especially during evening travel and in traffic jams. Even while driving, motorists can be vulnerable to armed bandits on motorcycles who prey on potential victims waiting at traffic lights or in traffic. Travelers are advised to use caution during evening travel to evade roadside robberies that target passing and stopped vehicles. The city is inundated with motorcycle and moped drivers who snatch valuable items from open vehicle windows.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

The First Capitol Command (PCC) remains a criminal organization of great interest to the police and government. The PCC is a violent prison gang that controls the majority of illegal contraband and drugs transiting São Paulo. In 2006, PCC revolted against state security forces in prisons; the violence spilled into into the streets of São Paulo. Although civilians were not specifically targeted, police stations and municipal buildings were attacked while public buses, gas stations, and ATMs were randomly burned throughout the state and city. In 2012, the PCC coordinated another spate of attacks against police targets and public buses. The PCC almost exclusively conducted targeted attacks against São Paulo Military Police officers during both time frames, but PCC vandals burned some public buses and storefronts. Over 100 police officers were killed during PCC-coordinated violence in 2012. In early October 2013, imprisoned gang leaders from the PCC threatend a “tournament of terror” during the 2014 FIFA World Cup if the government decided to move forward with relocating gang leaders to a higher security prison. The PCC threatened to conduct prison riots, attack police, and commit unspecified acts of public violence in retaliation for prisoner transfers.

Border areas, including the Tri-Border Area (TBA) where the Brazilian, Argentine, and Paraguayuan frontiers meet near Iguazo Falls (Foz de Iguazu), are focal points of illegal transnational activity. No incidents directed against American citizens along border areas have been reported to the Consulate.

There are no known indigenous terrorist groups operating in Brazil. Brazil is a non-aligned country with no significant enemies and is not targeted by any known radical groups.

Civil Unrest

Political violence in the form of protests occurs throughout Brazil—especially in the capital and major cities. 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. Some activist groups have vowed to caused civil unrest and disruptions during the 2014 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Natural disasters are not a significant problem in Brazil; however, flooding has plagued São Paulo state and many other parts of the country. Over the last several years, severe rainstorms have caused flooding in São Paulo with fatalities, homes destroyed, and bridges and highways closed. Since 2006, flooding has caused deaths and millions of dollars in property losses in the São Paulo area. Intense rain can cause severe gridlock within the city. Congonhas Airport is particularly susceptible to heavy rainstorms.

Industrial and Transportation Accidents

As the economic and commercial center of the country and the most populated city, São Paulo is subject to industrial and transportation incidents. Vehicle accidents involving hazardous chemicals are known to occur on the major highways of São Paulo, shutting roadways for significant periods until the area can be cleared and sanitized. The city’s underground rail system has also experienced mishaps, 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 of any city in the world. Reports of cargo theft, from both overland shipments and from storage facilities, occur frequently.

Drug-related Crimes

São Paulo experiences the harmful effects of illicit drug trafficking. Drug use sometimes contributes to criminal activity, such as street assaults and robberies, that drug users may commit to support their addictions. Several Brazilian cities are transshipment points for illicit drugs, especially cocaine. Crack cocaine use is increasing in São Paulo. Brazil is the number two consumer of cocaine in the world, behind the United States. As such, a large proportion of crimes have a nexus to narcotics.

Kidnapping Threats

The majority of kidnappings in São Paulo are "express kidnappings.” Victims, usually a Brazilian citizen, are abducted for a short time in order to receive a quick payoff from the family, business, or the victim's debit/credit card. In some cases, they will take the victims shopping if their ATM cash limit has already been met. All foreigners, including Americans, are vulnerable to this crime.

Virtual kidnappings are reported and are one of the most common scams perpetrated by criminals in São Paulo. In this scam, 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 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 and civil police, varies. Police authorities cite a lack of resources, staffing and basic equipment shortages, and low morale among the key reasons response times are not always optimal and many crimes go unsolved. Brazilian law enforcement entities look for creative policing strategies -- community policing base stations in favelas (slums) and the use of motorcycle, helicopter, and even cavalry units -- to overcome infrastructure challenges to crime prevention in some areas. 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. 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


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) 3538 5000

Sea Rescue (Salvamento Marítimo)

Tel: (21) 2104 6119

Crisis & Helplines 



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) 5084 2579

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



São Paulo Civilian Guard (Guarda Civil Metropolitana)

Tel: (11) 3396 5830    153

São Paulo Traffic (Polícia Rodoviaria Federal)

Tel: 191

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: Call Hospital or listed clinic

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) 3113 8000

Report Unsanitary Conditions (Vigilância Sanitária)

Tel: (11) 3397 8278 8279 8280

Citizen Service Centres (Poupatempo)

Tel: 0800 772 36 33

Lost and Found

Tel: 159  0800 770 7722

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) 2226 0664

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

Tel: (11) 2445 2221/4092  2611 3260

Medical Emergencies

Contact Information for Recommended Local Hospitals and Clinics


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) 2661 0000

Tel: (11) 2661 1234

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

Tel: (11)3549 0000

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

Tel: (11) 2151 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) 3505 1000

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) 3016 4133

Hospital São Paulo 
At: Rua Napoleão de Barros 737

Tel: (11) 5576 4036

Hospital Aviccena 
At: Rua Pe Adelino 901, Vila Verde

Tel: (11) 2602 0000

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

For vaccines and health guidance, please visit the CDC at:

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim


Crime continues to be the principal threat to visitors to São Paulo.

São Paulo's International Airport is subject to crime. Reports of crimes against travelers along the road to the airport frequently occur, as criminals look to identify potential targets of wealth and affluence as they arrive and depart.

Areas to be Avoided

Avoid all São 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.

Best Situational Awareness Practices

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:

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.

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. Victims of robberies who resist a criminal’s demands have often been harmed for their noncompliance.

Avoid city buses and other public transportation. Taxis and private vehicles should be used when moving within the city of São Paulo. Only use taxis at taxi stands, or have your hotel call one for you directly. It is important that drivers pay attention to their surroundings, and keep doors locked and windows rolled up when stopped in traffic. Utilizing tinted windows, keeping windows rolled up, and keeping valuables out of sight are the best defenses against random vehicular criminal activity.

Travelers should seek to use alternative and more concealable means of transporting information than laptops, such as thumb drives or CD/DVD ROMs. If laptops are brought to São Paulo, they should be stored discretely in luggage and/or placed in the trunk of a vehicle.

Do not accept drinks from strangers and always watch your drink. Scopolamine or a similar drug may be added to your drink. People have often awoken robbed of their possessions and or sexually assaulted after accepting open drinks.

Travelers should exercise caution when traveling to border areas. It is recommended that American visitors to the area, including Foz de Iguazu, remain vigilant.

All visitors and employees are urged to exercise caution when approaching crowds and avoid areas where protests are being held.

U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information

Consulate Address and Hours of Operation

United States Consulate General São Paulo:

Rua Thomas Deloney 381

Chacara Santo Antonio

São Paulo-SP, 04710-110

Consulate Contact Numbers

The Regional Security Officer may be reached at (011-55) (11) 3250-5260. 

The telephone switchboard number is (011-55) (11) 3250-5000.

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.

U.S. organizations are encouraged to contact the Regional Security Officer (RSO) in São Paulo for specific inquiries concerning the local security situation.

OSAC Country Council Information

U.S. Consulate General São Paulo has a vibrant and active OSAC Country Council with over 100 members, including major U.S. companies representing 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. São Paulo Country Council information can be located, via password, on the OSAC website at: or by contacting the Regional Security Office at the above listed numbers or via Sã