Report   DETAILS


Brazil 2015 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 on other areas of Brazil, please reference the OSAC Crime and Safety Reports from the following Consular Districts: Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, and Recife.

Crime Rating: Critical

Crime Threats

Crime is a major concern in Brazil, especially in large cities, such as São Paulo. Crime levels in the state of São Paulo remain high. Crime is the principal threat to visitors to São Paulo. Street crime is a problem, especially in the evenings and late at night. Public transportation hubs, hotel sectors, and tourist areas are the locations with the highest crime rates. Be alert at open markets or crowded areas. Much of São Paulo’s crimes and violence can be attributed to street gangs and organized crime groups. In São Paulo, robbery, assault, burglary, and theft are concerns for foreigners and Brazilians alike. All neighborhoods in the city of São Paulo are susceptible to crime. Many criminals use weapons when carrying out illicit activities and often are accompanied by gratuitous violence. Brazilian law enforcement and press sources report an increase in crime after several consecutive years of decreasing crime trends. While crime is a problem throughout the year, there are noticeable increases in reported incidents during December and January, likely attributable to: Brazil’s liberal system of prison furloughs that allows for leave during the holidays; a higher percentage of police officers on annual leave during the Christmas season; and that citizens receive a “13th month” bonus in December and have more disposable income. Homes and apartments are targeted for burglary during this period with a greater frequency than the rest of the year.

Laptop computers are the number one target of thieves and criminals in São Paulo. Travelers should seek to use alternative, more concealable means of transporting information (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. 

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. Crime was a concern for visitors during the World Cup, the majority of it opportunistic street crime that took advantage of the influx of tourists. Reports of crimes against private U.S. citizens were made to both American Citizen Services and OSAC personnel who supported this major event. Thieves targeted people at Fan Fests, near stadiums, on buses, subways, and other areas where tourists congregated. Commonly stolen items included: wallets, purses, phones, cameras, luggage, jewelry, and tickets. These thefts were usually non-violent, but the ones that did turn violent were often because the victim resisted. The tournament also saw more serious cases of crime to include sexual assault, armed robbery, and express kidnapping. Armed street robberies are common in São Paulo. On August 14, 2014, a Chief of Mission couple and a Foreign Service Officer from another country met for a long weekend in a large city. The three went out for dinner in a traditionally safe area of town. Upon exiting the restaurant, they were only a few meters from the restaurant when they realized they were walking in the wrong direction. They were approached by several youth; one displayed a long knife and demanded their valuables. The diplomats gave up their valuables, and no one was injured or harmed. There are daily reports of armed robberies in the affluent residential sections of Jardims, Morumbi, Campo Belo, and Moema where a number of government and business leaders and a majority of U.S. Consulate employees reside. 

Violent crimes such as murder, rape, kidnapping, carjacking, armed assault and burglary occur with frequency. 

Residential burglaries pose a constant threat and concern. São Paulo has its share of street gangs that target the more affluent residential areas. But, according to the police, much is carried out by mobile street gangs, originating from neighboring countries (Paraguay and Argentina) where some borders are porous. Other perpetrators are from the surrounding satellite cities and travel by metro, bus, or car into the neighborhoods looking for targets of opportunity. Most residential properties, especially single family homes, utilize security alarm systems. These systems are monitored by local security companies who respond along 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.  

Organized crime does exist in São Paulo on a large scale. The First Capitol Command (PCC), remains an organization of great interest to the government and the police. In 2006, São Paulo prison gangs revolted against state security forces, and the drama played out into the streets. The violence was mainly the work of the First Capitol Command, a violent prison gang that still controls the majority of illegal contraband and drugs coming in and out of the prisons in São Paulo. The civil unrest resulted in the deaths of over 40 police officers and hundreds of criminals. Although civilians were not specifically targeted, police stations and municipal buildings were attacked while public buses, gas stations, and ATMs were burned throughout the state and city. In 2012, the state of São Paulo again saw a spree of PCC killing police officers and corresponding extrajudicial killings, as the state tried to rein in the PCC. In some cases, links have been made today regarding the PCC still carrying out its “Reign of Terror.”

Reports of cargo thefts, from both overland shipments and from storage facilities, occur frequently.

Cyber

A growing area of concern is the rise in cyber crime activities. 

Areas of Concern

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

It is recommended that American visitors to the tri-border area, to include Foz de Iguazu, remain especially vigilant and maintain a low profile.

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 U.S$1,000 per bottle. Patrons who refuse to pay have been physically harassed and have had their credit cards taken. 

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions 

Road conditions outside of the main cities vary greatly. The surface conditions of city roads 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 depending on the city/state.

Brazil uses automatic photo-ticketing systems to discourage speeding, and tickets are mailed to the owner of the vehicle.  

Crime on the road remains a problem for visitors and residents alike, especially during evening travel and in traffic jams. Travelers are advised to use 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 to keep doors locked and windows rolled up when stopped in traffic. The city is inundated with motorcycle and moped drivers and riders who have snatched items through open windows. 

Public Transportation Conditions 

São Paulo utilizes a bus system, taxis, and metro system. While none are off limits, RSO recommends that, especially outside of the western region of the city, they are utilized as little as possible in order to reduce the possibility of problems. 

Buses are plentiful and generally keep a steady schedule. Avoid city buses when possible. Protest and demonstrations targeting the bus and mass transit systems often leaves this form of transportation to be less than desirable, as buses are often burned, robbed while in transit, and the source of many protests. In 2006, a public bus was hijacked 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. Many pass through high crime areas and are susceptible to robberies.

Although taxis are plentiful, there are still high rates of illegal/pirate taxis looking for potential targets of opportunity. Most Brazilians know how to spot a legal taxi. Taxis and private vehicles should be used when moving in the city of Sao 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 keeping valuables out of sight are the best defenses against this type of random criminal activity. Only use legitimate, well-marked taxis at taxi stands or have your hotel call one for you directly.

The metro system is often crowded, and there are daily reports of citizens suffering loss of personal items and of females being groped and touched inappropriately.       

Aviation/Airport Conditions

São Paulo’s two major airports Congonhas (domestic) and Guarulhos (international) are safe and generally experience on time services. During the World Cup 2014, Guarulhos introduced an expanded, modern international wing that has served well and should serve the city well for the 2016 Olympic Games. A work stoppage (January 2014) saw the airports nationwide band together to force an increase in salaries for airport workers, to include some airline flight crews. This may become prevalent in the lead-up to the Olympic Games.    

Arriving passengers at Guarulhos international airport are frequently targeted for robberies either on the road to São Paulo or upon arrival at their residences. 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. 

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.  

Other Travel Conditions

On January 8th, 2014, a Consulate employee traveled less than ¼ mile from the Consulate when he encountered heavy rains followed by severe flooding which almost instantly stalled out his car. Flooding happens often and quickly, leaving the operator very little time to get to higher grounds.  

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Political violence is possible in any of the major cities. 

Political Violence Rating: Medium

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

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. 

The tri-border area (TBA) where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay frontiers come together is an illegal activity hub. Concerns exist that individuals among the region’s significant Arab community have been engaged in facilitating transfers of money and people for terrorist organizations. To date, no incidents directed against official or non-official Americans have occurred in this area. 

Terrorism Rating: Low

Civil Unrest 

Political violence in the form of protests occurs, especially in the capital and major cities. The threat of political violence remains a possibility, as São Paulo periodically hosts public demonstrations. While protests are generally non-violent, some have resulted in disturbances, property damage, and increased police activity. Protests tend to increase in numbers and intensity during the visits of high-profile foreigners. 

During the 2013 Confederation Cup soccer tournament, some groups caused chaos, civil unrest, and disruptions over their opposition to the spending on new facilities and infrastructure when other programs (education, healthcare, and transportation) could have, in their opinion, benefitted from the funding. The 2014 World Cup Tournament, however, was relatively protest-free. While most of these demonstrations were peaceful, some turned violent, resulting in property damage, injuries, and even deaths. Additionally, several reports surfaced of unruly fans breaching secure lines to enter stadiums, including during Chile’s match against Spain on June 18, when approximately 100 Chilean supporters gathered outside Maracaná Stadium and forced their way in. The group got to the media center, smashed the glass door, and entered the stadium.

Anarchist elements infiltrated numerous otherwise peaceful protests during the summer and fall of 2013 and the summer of 2014 during the World Cup that resulted in violent clashes between demonstrators and authorities. Otherwise peaceful demonstrations have been infiltrated by Black Bloc anarchists. Black Bloc is a loosely formulated movement that decries disparate issues ranging from institutional corruption to the poor quality of public services. They wear black clothing and bandanas/masks and utilize social media to organize. The mission of this movement is to infiltrate otherwise peaceful demonstrations to cause chaos and violence between the police and protestors. Their tactics have prevailed in some cases as was seen during the 2015 Transit Fare increase where several demonstrations and protest took place aided by factions of Black Bloc and “lone wolf”- type perpetrators.

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

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Flooding over several recent years has plagued São Paulo state and many other parts of the country. Over the last several years, severe rainstorms have occurred annually, causing flooding in São Paulo, with fatalities, homes destroyed, and bridges/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. 

Critical Infrastructure Concerns 

Congonhas airport is particularly susceptible to heavy rainstorms.

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, shutting roadways for significant periods 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. 

Drug-related Crimes

São Paulo experiences the harmful effects of illicit drug trafficking. Drug use contributes to criminal activity that users commit to support their addictions. Several 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 U.S., and the number one consumer of crack cocaine in the world. As such, a large portion of crimes have a nexus to narcotics. São Paulo also experiences the effects of persons addicted to illicit drugs. This includes criminal activity, the proceeds from which are used to support their addiction

Kidnapping Threat

“Quicknapping” is an ongoing criminal activity in which ATM users are kidnapped at gun point and taken to several ATMs to withdraw cash. While Brazilians are most often targeted, all foreigners are vulnerable to this crime. 

Police Response

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

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

Crime Victim Assistance

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) 3538 5000

Sea Rescue (Salvamento Marítimo)

Tel: (21) 2104 6119


Medical Emergencies

Contact Information for Recommended Hospitals/Clinics
 

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) 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

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) 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)
Rua Dona Antonio Queiros 505 Consolação

Tel: (11) 3155 2800


CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance 

For additional information on vaccines and health guidance, please visit the CDC at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/brazil?s_cid=ncezid-dgmq-travel-single-001.

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Scams 

Scams involving credit cards are common. Numerous reports are made daily by victims of credit/debit card scams that result in the compromise of credit card information and the fraudulent use of their credit/debit cards. Travelers using ATM or credit cards sometimes receive billing statements with unauthorized charges after using them in Brazil, or they discover that their cards were cloned/duplicated.

There are a variety of scams used by the criminals to rob victims. An unknown individual calls to say that a person you know (possibly a family member) has been kidnapped and unless you pay the ransom immediately the person will be harmed. The ransom is paid and it then becomes clear that the kidnapping never occurred. A similar scam is where an unknown individual calls and states an employee/family member has been in an accident and needs immediate medical attention. The individual states that payment must be provided in order for the injured individual to be treated. This scam is often targeted at household staff who react without verifying with their employer.

Situational Awareness Best Practices 

Visitors should practice commonsense preventive security techniques, just as they would in any large metropolitan city in the world where crime is prevalent. 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 cross the street and alter your route. Use well-traveled, well-illuminated streets. Always plan your routes before you leave for your final destination. Traveling in small groups appears to have a positive effect on deterring criminals. Do not walk on beaches or in parks after dark.  Assaults are common in these areas.

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.

The RSO recommends that residences provide solid-core entry doors with quality deadbolts, security grills on all windows, adequate front and rear security lighting and a monitored alarm system.

Using credit/debit cards throughout São Paulo should be taken with great caution. Withdrawing money from ATMs not inside banks, restaurants, hotels, or airports pose serious risks. Even with local merchants and restaurants, most use handheld credit card machines to facilitate sales. At all times, clients should pay close attention to their credit/debit cards while in São Paulo. Afterward, close monitoring of banking account information should automatically follow any sales transactions to ensure credit/debit cards and personal information has not been compromised.

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 and 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. Do not answer your hotel room door until you positively confirm who is on the other side. Look out the peephole or call the front desk to confirm the visitor.

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

Many residents and visitors find that renting or purchasing a cell phone is very useful. Cell phones are widely available, inexpensive, and generally highly reliable, especially in the major cities.

U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information 

Consulate Address and Hours of Operation 

U.S. Consulate General São Paulo

Rua Henri Dunant, 500

Chácara Santo Antônio

São Paulo- SP, 04709-110

Hours: 08:00 am to 05:00 pm

Consulate Contact Numbers

Phone: (55-11) 3250-5000

Emergencies and after hours may be directed to Post One: (11) 5181-8730

Fax: (55-11) 3250-5199

The RSO may be reached at +55 (11) 3250-5223.

Website: http://saopaulo.usconsulate.gov/

Nearby Posts

Embassy Brasilia: http://brazil.usembassy.gov/
Consulate Rio de Janeiro: http://riodejaneiro.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Recife: http://recife.usconsulate.gov/

Consulate Guidance

U.S. companies are encouraged to contact the RSO in São Paulo for specific inquiries concerning the local security situation. Information is also readily available from the RSO offices in Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia and from the active OSAC Country Councils in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. 

OSAC Country Council Information

The U.S. Consulate General has a vibrant, 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, and an extensive email network to promote ideas and facilitate the exchange of information and contacts. Country Council information can be located, via password, at: www.osac.gov/countrycouncils or by contacting the Regional Security Office via SAOPAULOALLRSO@state.gov. To reach OSAC’s Western Hemisphere team, please email OSACWHA@state.gov.