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Brazil 2017 Crime & Safety Report: São Paulo

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

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Consulate General São Paulo 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.


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

Crime Threats

Crime continues to be the principal threat to visitors to São Paulo; armed street robberies are common. Current statistics indicate that crime has not decreased since the last presidential elections in 2014. In fact, crime levels remain high and continue to rise in many areas in the state of São Paulo. Crimes and related violence can be attributed to street gangs and organized crime groups throughout the state. São Paulo continues to experience violent crimes (murder, rape, kidnappings, armed assaults, burglaries). In São Paulo, robbery, assault, burglary, and theft are concerns for foreigners and Brazilians alike. Criminals are determined and sophisticated. All neighborhoods in 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 government and business leaders and a majority of the U.S. Consulate employees reside. Public transportation hubs, hotel sectors, and tourist areas have the highest crime rates. Laptop computers are the number-one target of thieves and criminals in São Paulo. Travelers should seek to use alternative and more concealable means of transporting information (thumb drives, 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. Comprehensive crime statistics are published by the Secretary of Public Security.

Street crime is a problem, especially in the evenings and late at night. Caution is required when travelling at night through rural areas and satellite cities due to the significant potential for roadside robberies. Motorcycle-borne robberies are prevalent throughout São Paulo. In such instances, one to two criminals on motorcycle identify an isolated victim, pull alongside his/her, present a firearm, and steal belongings (cellphone), and evade the area.

Reports of cargo thefts, from both overland shipments and from storage facilities, continue to plague the city; these crimes occur frequently.

Violent crimes (murder, kidnapping, carjacking, armed assault, burglary) occur frequently. Many criminals carry weapons, and crimes are sometimes accompanied by gratuitous violence. According to media reports, rapes increased by 6.72%, cargo thefts increased by 17.11%, and robberies grew by 2.3%; however, the homicide rate dropped by 6.31% to 3,500 cases or 8.12 homicides per 100,000 in 2016. Recent increases in activity have been noted in major cities, even as the official homicide rate for São Paulo continues to decrease.

Foreigners are not immune to acts of crime, and American citizens have been victimized.

  • In November 2016, a member of the Consulate community was shot while resisting a robbery in the Chacara Santo Antonio neighborhood, as she was walking home alone at night. 

    Foreign visitors may be susceptible to targeting for certain crimes, as they tend to be more likely to display wealth, making them a more attractive target. Visitors may also be less likely to file a police report and/or return to testify at criminal proceedings should perpetrators be apprehended by police.

    There are noticeable nationwide increases in reported incidents in 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, diversion of police resources to patrol popular coastal areas, 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 targeted more for burglary during these two months.

    Residential burglaries pose a constant threat and concern that, according to police, is carried out by mobile street gangs, originating Paraguay and Argentina where some borders are porous. São Paulo has its share of street gangs that often target the more affluent residential areas in the city. Other perpetrators are from the surrounding satellite cities and travel by metro, bus, or car into the neighborhoods looking for targets of opportunity. Family members and household help should not allow anyone to enter the residential grounds without identification and prearranged appointments. Suspicious persons/activities should be reported to the police immediately. The RSO advises that residences have solid-core entry doors with quality deadbolts, security grilles on windows, front/rear security lighting, and a monitored alarm system. Security alarm systems are monitored by local security companies who tend to be the primary responders. Local police response can be delayed for hours. 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. 

    Travelers should exercise extreme caution should they visit São Paulo adult nightclubs, which have swindled patrons into purchasing bottles of alcohol without disclosing the actual price of the drinks, at times running up to U.S.$1,000/bottle. Patrons who refuse to pay have been physically harassed and had their credit cards taken. Do not accept drinks from strangers and always watch your drink. Scopolamine or a similar drug may be added to your drink. Victims have often awoken robbed of their possessions and/or sexually assaulted after accepting open drinks. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.”

    Organized crime exists in São Paulo on a large scale: The First Capital Command (PCC), a violent prison gang that controls the majority of illegal contraband and drugs coming in/out of the prisons in São Paulo, remains an organization of great interest to the government of Brazil and the police.

  • In 2006, São Paulo prison gangs revolted against state security forces, and criminal actions spilled into the streets. The violence was mainly the work of the PCC.
  • From December 2016-January 2017, there were substantial reports of prison gang riots that led to barbaric murders of over 70 prisoners.

Cybersecurity Issues

A growing area of concern is the rise in cybercrime. U.S. businesses in Brazil are regularly targeted by cybercriminals, who have significant capabilities. Employing the use of credit/debit cards throughout São Paulo should be taken with caution. Numerous reports are made daily by victims of scams that result in the compromise of credit card information and the fraudulent use of their cards. Withdrawing money from ATMs not inside hotels, banks, airports, or other locations with supplementary security measures, pose serious risks. Local merchants and restaurants generally use handheld credit card machines to facilitate sales. Some debit/credit card thefts have been attributed to hacking; therefore, close monitoring of banking account information should automatically follow any sales transactions to ensure credit/debit cards and personal information has not been compromised. 

Other Areas of Concern

Throughout Brazil, favelas are common and are easily recognizable. Crimes, assaults, and drug-related issues are frequent in these low-income communities. These areas are off-limit to Embassy/Consulate personnel and should not be frequented.

Parks and recreational areas frequented by visitors and citizens have experienced severe crimes mostly at night to include assaults, thefts, and sexual assaults. It is best to depart from these public areas before sundown. Although assaults and thefts are also common during the day, higher rate of crimes and rapes are often reported during nighttime hours.  

Border areas of Brazil, including the Tri-Border Area (TBA) where the Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay frontiers meet, are a smuggling hub. Travelers should exercise caution when traveling to these areas. No incidents directed against official and rare incidents against non-official Americans have occurred in the TBA. It is recommended that American visitors to the area, including Foz de Iguazu, remain vigilant and maintain a low profile.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Road conditions outside the main cities vary greatly. The surface conditions of roads in cities are generally poor, with numerous pot holes, some of which can cause significant damage to a vehicle’s suspension system, during the rainy season. Flooding happens often and can leave the operator with little time to get to higher grounds.

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 remains a problem for both visitors and local residents alike, especially during evening travel and traffic jams. The city is inundated with motorcycle and moped drivers/riders who have been responsible for snatching items from open vehicle windows. Personal mapping applications and GPSs have also been known to route drivers through favelas and other high crime areas. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

Public Transportation Conditions

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

Buses are plentiful and generally keep a steady schedule. However, protest and demonstrations target the bus and mass transit systems; buses are often burned and/or robbed while in transit.

Taxis from official taxi stands or taxi services and private vehicles should be used when moving within the city of São Paulo. Transportation applications (Uber) are frequently used by residents and visitors. The Consulate has been made aware of incidents where individuals pose as drivers for ridesharing services solicit passengers at airports and request cash payment at the destination. Ensure that the license plate and driver match the information from the application utilized. For any car service, refrain from getting in a vehicle that has other passengers and object to picking up other individuals that may put one at greater risk. Taxi services have been known to drive thorough favelas, posing a danger.

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

Aviation/Airport Conditions

São Paulo’s three major airports are Congonhas (domestic), Guarulhos, (international) and Viracopos (international) are generally safe, particularly within their secure areas. They usually experience on time services. During the World Cup 2014, Guarulhos introduced an expanded, modern international wing to the airport.

The three airports are 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. Arriving passengers at Guarulhos and Congonhas are frequently targeted for robberies either on the road to São Paulo or upon arrival at their residences.

Other Travel Conditions

Many U.S. companies use armored vehicles, sometimes including bodyguards, to transport their senior executives. Typically, these services may be secured for individuals who may be targeted due to their high profile or high value status.

Terrorism Threat


Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

Brazil is a non-aligned country with no significant enemies and is not targeted by any known international radical groups.

Though there are no known indigenous terrorist groups operating in Brazil, a number of individuals who identified themselves as ISIS members were arrested in 2016 prior to and during the Olympic Games. Also during the Olympics, a pressure cooker bomb was planted at a major bus terminal in Brasilia. Both of these incidents may have been related to the Olympic Games and are the first terrorism-related incidents in recent history. Concerns exist that individuals among the region’s community have been engaged in facilitating transfers of money and people for terrorist organizations. 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence


Civil Unrest

Protests occur throughout Brazil, especially in major cities. The threat of political violence remains a possibility, as São Paulo periodically hosts public demonstrations. While the vast majority are peaceful, violence can flare up, resulting in disturbances, property damage, and increased police activity. All visitors and employees are urged to exercise caution when approaching crowds and avoid areas where protests are being held. In the past several years, Brazilians, political parties, interest, and social organizations have used major international and national events as a platform to voice discontent with the Brazilian government.

  • Mass protests took place beginning with the 2013 Confederations Cup, the 2014 World Cup, the 2015 presidential election, 2016 Olympic Games, and the 2016 presidential impeachment. 

  • São Paulo and a large portion of Brazil also deal with certain issues related to the so-called black bloc. Their mission is to infiltrate otherwise peaceful demonstrations to cause chaos and violence between police forces and protestors. Their tactics have prevailed in some cases. Over the past two years, an uptick in protest and civil unrest resulting from the government’s desire to raise public metro and rail fares has caused substantial trouble for the metro industry in the form of sometimes disruptive and violent protests.

    Post-specific Concerns

    Environmental Hazards

    Flooding is a huge problem nationwide. 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 also causes severe gridlock.

    Critical Infrastructure

    As the economic/commercial center of the country and the most populated region, 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.

  • In December 2016, a chemical explosion occurred in Cubatao (between São Paulo and Santos); the incident shutdown major highways and spread harmful chemicals to greater São Paulo.
  • In January 2016, a major environmental hazard occurred at the Port of Santos in São Paulo state – the largest sea port in South America – when a container was left exposed to severe rainfalls over a period of several days. Rainwater seeped into containers carrying industrial strength ammonia, causing an explosion and the release of a toxic cloud of smoke, which led to one death and several dozen hospitalizations. The port has been the scene of other such environmental accidents in the past.

The city’s underground rail system has also experienced mishaps, including electrical outages and train stoppages.

Economic Concerns

Many firms have raised concerns about intellectual property rights enforcement, including counterfeit goods and a deteriorating situation in São Paulo since 2012, serving as the primary gateway to the country’s other markets. Brazil’s software industry consistently sees licensing compliance under 50%. 

Personal Identity Concerns

Hate-related crimes rarely occur, though some U.S. citizens have reported being the target of comments/actions because of their nationality or race.

Drug-related Crimes

A large proportion of crimes have a nexus to narcotics. São Paulo experiences the harmful effects of illicit drug trafficking. Drug use contributes to criminal activity (street assaults, robberies) that users commit to support their addictions. Several Brazilian cities are transshipment points for illicit drugs, especially cocaine. Brazil is the number two consumer of cocaine in the world, behind the U.S. Crack cocaine use is increasing in São Paulo. Brazil is the number one consumer of crack cocaine in the world.

Kidnapping Threat

Quicknapping continues to be an ongoing trend in Brazil. In quicknappings, victims are kidnapped at gun point and taken to several ATMs to withdraw cash. While Brazilians are most often targeted, all foreigners are vulnerable.

Police Response

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

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

Crime Victim Assistance


National Emergency Services


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

190 or 911

Fire Service (Corpo de Bombeiros)


National Civil Police (Polícia Civil)


Medical Emergency (ambulância)


Federal Police (Polícia Federal)

(11) 3538 5000

Sea Rescue (Salvamento Marítimo)

(21) 2104 6119

Medical Emergencies

Contact Information for Available Medical Services




Drug Abuse/Narcotics Anonymous (Narcoticos Anônimos)

(11) 3101 9626

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

0800 162 550

Alcoholics Anonymous (Alcoólicos Anônimos)

(11) 3315 9333

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

(11) 3104 4850

Defense of Abused Women (Delegacia de Defesa da Mulher)


(11) 5084 2579

Suicide/Crisis Line (CVV)


Children's Helpline (SOS Criança)


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

0800 771 3733

(11) 5012 5311




HC Hospital das Clínicas

Av. Dr. Enéas de Carvalho Aguiar 255

Instituto da Criança do Hospital das Clínicas (Children's A&E department)

(11) 2661 0000


(11) 2661 1234


Hospital Alemão Oswaldo Cruz

Rua João Julião 331, Paraíso

(11)3549 0000


Albert Einstein Hospital

Av. Albert Einstein 627/701, Morumbi

(11) 2151 1233


São Luiz Hospital

Eng. Oscar Americano St. 840, Morumbi

(11) 3093 1100


Hospital Santa Cruz

Rua Santa Cruz 398, Vila Mariana

(11) 5080 2000


Hospital Samaritano

Rua Conselheiro Brotero 1486, Higienopolis

(11) 3821 5300


Hospital Bandeirantes

Rua Galvão Bueno 257, Liberdade

(11) 3345 2000


Beneficência Portuguesa

Rua Maestro Cardim 769, Paraiso

(11) 3505 1000


Sírio Libanês

Rua Adma Jafet 91, Bela Vista

(11) 3155 0200


Hospital Santa Catarina

Av Paulista 200, Bela Vista 1

(11) 3016 4133


Hospital São Paulo

Rua Napoleão de Barros 737

(11) 5576 4036


Hospital Aviccena

Rua Pe Adelino 901, Vila Verde

(11) 2602 0000


Pronto Socorro Infantil Sabará (Sabará Children’s Emergency Clinic)

Rua Dona Antonio Queiros 505 Consolação

(11) 3155 2800


Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

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

OSAC Country Council Information

The São Paulo Country Council currently meets once a month and has approximately 118 members. Please contact OSAC’s Western Hemisphere team with any questions or to join. 

U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information

Consulate Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Consulate General São Paulo is located at Rua Thomas Deloney, 381 Chacara Santo Antonio, São Paulo, 04710-110.

Consulate Contact Numbers

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

Emergencies and calls after normal business hours may be directed to Post One at +55 (11) 3250-5373.

The RSO may be reached at +55 (11) 3250-5260.


Nearby Posts

Embassy Brasilia:

Consulate General Rio de Janeiro:

Consulate General Recife:

Presence Post Belo Horizonte:

Presence Post Porto Alegre:

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, Brasilia, Recife, and from the active OSAC Country Councils in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

Additional Resources

Brazil Country Information Sheet