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Brazil 2015 Crime and Safety Report: Rio de Janeiro

Western Hemisphere > Brazil; Western Hemisphere > Brazil > Rio de Janeiro

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The State Department divides its roles and responsibilities in Brazil between four Consular Districts (one for the Embassy and each of the three Consulates). This Crime and Safety Report focuses on U.S. Consulate General Rio de Janeiro’s district, which is comprised of the states of Rio de Janeiro, Espirito Santo, Minas Gerais, Bahia, and Sergipe. 
For more information regarding the security environment in other areas of Brazil, please reference the OSAC Crime and Safety Reports from: Brasilia, Sao Paulo, and Recife.

Crime Rating: Critical

Crime Threats

Crime is a major concern, especially in the larger cities. The police and the press report that crime is becoming more widespread. Street crime is a problem especially in the evenings and late at night. In Rio, robbery, assault, burglary and theft are concerns for foreigners and Brazilians alike. Criminals are determined and sophisticated, which requires visitors to be alert to their surroundings. Violent crimes (murder, kidnapping, carjacking, armed assault, and burglary) occur regularly. The consolidation of power among a few large criminal gangs has led to a decrease in gang-on-gang violence; however, this has resulted in an increased focus on civilian targets. Many criminals use weapons and often gratuitous violence. 

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.  

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.

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

Organized crime in Rio is controlled by major drug gangs, operating mainly in the favelas. The crime in Rio’s favelas is certainly a product of organized crime, mostly centered on narcotics trafficking. In Rio, a systematic “favela pacification program” has begun to bring favelas under government and police control. The security services secured the symbolically criminally-hardened Mare favela (which straddles two major traffic thoroughfares: Avenida Brasil and Linha Vermelha) and have occupied over 30 smaller favelas. There have been instances of large-scale gun battles in/around the favelas during some of the police operations. In addition, criminal elements located in certain favelas have specifically targeted police officers.

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.

Public transportation hubs, hotel sectors, and tourist areas have the highest crime rates.

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

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions 

The surface conditions of the roads in Rio are generally acceptable. However, certain areas have major issues with pot holes, some of which, particularly 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. Brazil uses automatic photo-ticketing systems to discourage speeding and tickets are mailed to the owner of the vehicle.  

Road conditions outside of the main cities vary greatly. Accidents are always a concern outside of major cities. 

Public Transportation Conditions 

Avoid city buses and other public transportation. Many pass through high crime areas and are susceptible to robberies. 

Only use legitimate, well-marked taxis.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Airports countrywide inaugurated supplemental security measures, in part to thwart criminal activity targeting aviation facilities.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

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 (where Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay come together) is home to a large Arab community. 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 throughout Brazil -- especially in the capital and major cities. These protests are held for various reasons: work conditions, wages, the environment. While protests are generally non-violent, some have resulted in property damage and minor injuries. Protests tend to increase in numbers and intensity during visits from high-profile foreigners and coincide with major events.

There were extremely large protests in 2014 in Brasilia, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo. While the majority of these protests are peaceful, violence occasionally occurs. Visitors should avoid areas where large crowds are gathering or protests are on-going. 

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

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

Drug-related Crimes

The major cities of Brazil experience the effects of persons addicted to illicit drugs. This includes criminal activity (street assaults and robberies) the proceeds of which are used to support their addictions. Brazil is the number two consumer of cocaine in the world, behind the U.S. As such, a large proportion of crimes have a nexus to narcotics.

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. Quicknapping is the current kidnapping trend in Brazil. Criminals abduct a victim for a short period of time, usually a Brazilian citizen, in order to receive a quick payoff from the family, business, or the victim’s ATM card. However, all foreigners are vulnerable to this crime. 

Police Response

Police officials frequently cite lack of resources, staffing shortages, basic equipment and morale as reasons for widely varying response times and unsolved crimes.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

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

Crime Victim Assistance

Police Militar Precinct Ipanema: (21) 2332-2074 (24HR)
Police Militar Precinct Lagoa: (21) (21) 2332-2912 (24HR)
Police Militar Precinct Copacabana: (21) 2332-7913/14  (24HR)
Police Militar Precinct Flamenco: (21) 2334-3972 / 4126 (24HR)
Police Militar Precinct Leblon: (21) 2332-2877 / 2866 (24HR)
Police Militar Emergency Number: 190 (24HR)
Civil Police: (21) 3399-7170
Civil Police – Tourist: (21) 2332-2924
Fire Department: 190 or 193
Ambulance: 192

Medical Emergencies

Contact Information for Recommended Hospitals/Clinics

The following local hospital has been identified by post as suitable for use by visitors to Rio de Janeiro: 

Hospital Samaritano
Rua Bambina, 98, Botafogo
Zona Sul 
Tel: (21) 2537-9722

Clinca Sao Vincente
Rua Joao Borges, 204, Gavea
Zona Sul
Tel: (21) 2529-4422

Centro Pediatrico da Lagoa
Rua Jardim Botanico, 448, Jardim Botanico
Zona Sul
Tel: (21) 2535-7932

24-hour Pharmacies:

Farmacia do Leme
Rua Prado Junior, 237, Copacabana
Zona Sul
Tel: (21) 2275-3847

Farmacia Cristal
Rua Marques de Abrantes, 27, Flamengo
Zona Sul
Tel: (21) 2265-3444

Recommended Insurance Posture

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

CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance 

For vaccine 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 

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 becomes clear that the kidnapping never occurred. A similar scam is where an unknown individual calls and states an employee or 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 staffs who react without verifying with their employer.

Situational Awareness Best Practices 

Visitors to Brazil should practice common sense preventive security techniques, just as they would in any large city. Visitors can reduce their risk of becoming a victim of crime by varying routes and times of travel. Traveling in groups of two or more persons appears to have a positive effect on deterring criminals. Do not carry/wear valuable items that will attract attention. If you need to wear expensive jewelry or carry a camera, conceal it until you arrive at your destination. Be alert at open markets or crowded areas. Do not walk on beaches or in parks after dark; assaults are common in these areas. Be aware of the street environment and avoid contact with those who may be looking for potential victims. If you feel unsafe, seek a safer location. Go into a store, bank or simply cross the street. Do not physically resist any robbery attempt. While this is a personal decision, statistics show that resistance can lead to injury or death.

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

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 of their valuables or sexually assaulted after accepting such a drink.

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

In regards to residential security, the Regional Security Officer recommends that residences provide solid-core entry doors with quality deadbolts and a “peephole,” security grilles on all lower floor windows, 24-7 doorman for apartments, adequate external security lighting, and a monitored alarm system. 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. 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.

U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information 

Consulate Address and Hours of Operation 

American Consulate General Rio de Janeiro is located at Av. Presidente Wilson, 147 Bairro Castelo.

Consulate Contact Numbers

Switchboard: +55 (21) 3823-2000
Emergencies and calls after normal business hours may be directed to Post One at +55 (21) 3823-2029
RSO: extension 2908 
Fax: +55 (21) 3823-2003
Website: http://riodejaneiro.usconsulate.gov/

Nearby Posts

Embassy Brasilia: http://brazil.usembassy.gov/
Consulate Recife: http://recife.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Sao Paulo: http://saopaulo.usconsulate.gov/

Consulate Guidance

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

For updated information, please contact the Consular Section of the American Embassy in Brasilia, the Consular Section of the American Consulate in Rio de Janeiro, or consult the web sites of the Consular Bureau of the Department of State (www.travel.state.gov) or of the United States Embassy in Brasilia (www.embaixadaamericana.org.br). The embassy phone number is (011-55) 61-3312-7000.

OSAC Country Council Information 

Brasilia does not have an OSAC Country Council. OSAC Country Councils are located in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Please review their reports for additional details. To reach the OSAC Western Hemisphere team, please email OSACWHA@state.gov.