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Brazil 2009 Crime & Safety Report: Brasília & Recife

Western Hemisphere; Western Hemisphere > Brazil

Overall Crime and Safety Situation


Crime Threats

Crime continues to be a major issue in Brazil -- especially in larger cities. The Brazilian police and the Brazilian press report that crime continues to increase, while murder, kidnapping, carjacking, armed assault and burglary remain the norm.  The consolidation of power among a few large criminal gangs has led to a decrease in gang-on-gang violence, but has allowed these gangs to continue to focus more on external (i.e. civilian) targets.

Residential burglaries continue to occur regularly.  Police sources attribute a portion of this activity to mobile street gangs, originating from larger and distant cities, such as São Paulo and Rio, who target some of the residential areas surrounding sections of Brasília.  Other suspects are persons from the surrounding satellite cities who travel by bus or car into the neighborhoods looking for targets of opportunity.

Public transportation, hotel sectors and tourist areas are still the locations with the highest crime rates, though the Regional Security Office (RSO) continues to receive incident reports from all areas and at all times.  Many criminals use weapons in the course of carrying out their criminal activities and a level of gratuitous violence continues to exist.  The RSO recommends that residences be properly secured, including solid entry doors that are bolted, grills on windows, adequate lighting and working alarm systems.

As a general rule, most residential properties - especially single family homes - are outfitted with residential security systems.  These systems are monitored by local security companies, who, in turn, summon the local police upon receipt of an alarm or reported problem.  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 and guard services.  These measures are seen as a response to the frequency with which robberies and burglaries have occurred in the past and also due to the fear that a portion of the criminal element is operating with increasing levels of impunity.

Street crime remains a problem for visitors and local residents alike, especially in the evenings and late at night.  Caution is advised with regard to nighttime travel through more rural areas and satellite cities due to reported incidents of roadside robberies that randomly target passing vehicles.  Incidents of robbery and quicknapping outside of banks and ATM machines are common.  Wealthier and high profile individuals continue to express concerns regarding kidnappings for ransom.  Local attention continues to focus on the possible correlation between higher rates of criminality in areas surrounding public transportation systems access points and hubs, such as bus stations.  Foreign visitors may be targeted because travelers will be less likely to file a police report and/or return to testify at criminal proceedings in the event that any of the perpetrators are apprehended by police.

Road Conditions

The road systems in Brasília and Recife are fairly good.  There is adequate lighting, traffic signals and marked lanes.  Brazil uses photo ticketing to monitor speeding, and tickets are mailed to the owner of the vehicle.  Road conditions outside of the largest cities vary-- with poor roads linked to good roads, spotty lighting and few places to safely stop.


Political Violence

Historical Perspective

Political violence in the form of protests occurs throughout Brazil -- especially in the capital and major cities.  These protests are held for myriad causes and/or reasons -- from work conditions to wages to the environment.  While these protests are generally non-violent, there have been instances of property damage. The number and intensity of protests tend to increase if there are high profile foreign visitors in the country.

Regional Terrorism and Organized Crime

At this time 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.  While there is no significant threat from organized crime in Brasília and Recife, other cities, especially Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, have major drug gangs mainly operating in the favelas (slums).  In 2006, these gangs launched two dedicated waves of violence, centered in São Paulo, that were likened by many to a terrorist event; the President of Brazil has called these gangs terrorist organizations.

International Terrorism or Transnational Terrorism

The presence of sympathizers of extremist terrorist groups in the Tri-Border Area (TBA), comprised of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina, cannot be discounted.  The U.S. Government remains concerned that Hizballah and Hamas are raising funds in the TBA by participating in illicit activities and soliciting donations within the sizeable Muslim communities in the region and elsewhere in the territories of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, although there is no corroborated information that these or other Islamic extremist groups have an operational presence in the area.  Accordingly, it is recommended that American visitors to the area, to include Foz de Iguazu, remain especially vigilant and maintain a low profile.

Civil Unrest

The threat of political violence is an ever-present possibility throughout the major cities of Brazil.  There have been several protests in the past year in Brasília, Recife, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.  While the majority of these protests are peaceful, violence occasionally occurs.  All visitors should refrain from going out when there are large crowds or on-going protests.

For further updated information, please contact the Consular Section of the American Embassy in Brasília, the Consular Section of the American Consulate in Recife, or consult the web sites of the Consular Bureau of the Department of State ( or of the United States Embassy in Brasília (

Embassy Brasília: (011-55) 61-3312-7000

Consulate Recife: (011-55) 81-3416-3050


Post-specific Concerns


Natural Disasters

Please note that natural disasters are not a major problem for Brazil, though significant flooding does occur during the rainy season.


Cargo Theft


Reports of cargo theft, from both overland shipments and from storage facilities, occur frequently.  Airports countrywide inaugurated supplemental security measures, in part as a response to reports of criminal activity associated with aviation facilities.  


Quicknappings continue to be the primary type of kidnapping.  Criminals abduct victims for a short 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, including Americans, are vulnerable to this crime. Robbery, assault, burglary and theft continue to be problems for foreigners and Brazilians alike in Brasília and Recife.  For best practices - vary your routes and times, ensure that your residence is sufficiently protected (doors should be substantial and equipped with deadbolts and a peephole, all openings should be grilled and the grounds around your residence should be illuminated) and make yourself a “hard target.”  Instruct your family members and household help to be suspicious of individuals attempting to enter your residence. Your best protection is being security conscious.

Narcotics and Narcoterrorism

The major cities of Brazil, like many cities throughout the world, experience the effects of persons addicted to illicit drugs.  This includes criminal activity - such as street assaults and robberies - which are used in support of their addictions.  Large numbers of impoverished people live on the edges of most major cities. Officials express frustration with the difficulty in addressing the social problems including the inability to police these populations.


Police Response

Please note that police officials frequently cite the problematic and ongoing lack of resources, significant staffing shortages and unmet expectations for salary increases and basic equipment as reasons for widely varying response times and the high rate at which serious crimes are not solved.

Visitors are asked to inform the nearest Embassy or Consulate in the event they encounter any problems while traveling in Brazil -- including detainment or arrest by the police.


Where to Turn to for Assistance if you Become a Victim of a Crime and Local Police Telephone Numbers


Rio Branco Battalion/Federal District - (61) 3248-1335/1368/3364/2799 (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 Defense - Dial 199 or (61) 3363-1358


Fire Department - Dial 190 or 193


Ambulance - Dial 192




Military Police/Radio Patrol - (Boa Vista)(081) 3181-1900/1907 (24HR)

Police Precinct (Boa Viagem) - (081)3326-0780 / (081) 3303-7215 / 3184-3320 (24HR)

Police Precinct (OLINDA) - (081) 3184-3645/3646 (24 HR)

Police Precinct (Ipojuca/Porto de Galinhas) - (081) 3561-1937(24HR)

Tourists Police -CIATUR (Boa Viagem/International airport (081) 3322-4867/4932 (24HR)

Tourists Police -CIATUR (Olinda) (081) 3181 -1717/3703 (24HR)

Civil Police /Defense - 08000-813400 (24HR)

Fire Department - 193 OR 190

Ambulance - 192 or 190



Medical Emergencies


Contact information for local hospitals, and clinics

The following local hospitals have been identified by the U.S. Embassy as suitable for use by visitors to Brasília:  


Hospital Santa Lucia, located at W3 Sul 716, Conjunto C in the Asa Sul Section. The telephone number is (61) 3445-0000.

Hospital Brasília, located at Shis QI 15, TR. 5, Lote G. The telephone number is (61) 3248-9000.

Hospital de Base (Trauma Care), located at SMHS 101, Bloco A, in the Asa Sul Section. The telephone number is (61) 3325-4080/5050.

For Private Ground-Ambulance Service -- Vida Ambulance (61) 3248-3030.


The following local hospitals have been identified by The U.S. Embassy as suitable for use by visitors to Recife:


Hospital Santa Joana – (Graças), Rua Joaquim Nabuco, 200.  The telephone number is 081 3216-6666 (24HR).

Hospital Real Portugues (Derby), Avenida Governador Agamenon Magalhães, 4760.  The telephone number is (081) 3416-1122 (24HR).

Hospital Alfa Recife (Boa Viagem)Rua Visconde de Jequitinhonha, 1144.  The telephone number is 081 2129-3011 (24HR).


Air Ambulance Services

For air medical evacuation services the U.S. Embassy recommends visitors consider purchasing private air medical evacuation insurance before traveling to Brazil, which will provide medical information and insurance for overseas travelers.  The U.S. Embassy can assist visitors with further information about obtaining these services.

Vaccinations and Immunizations -- Travelers should consult with their own medical provider regarding immunization and vaccination requirements prior to traveling to Brazil.  Travelers should have a documented yellow fever card.

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Scams that are Unique or Especially Frequent

Crime continues to be the principal and real threat to visitors to Brazil.  There are a variety of scams used by the criminal element to separate the victim from their valuables. Some of these include:

- Someone calls to say that someone you know has been kidnapped and that unless you immediately pay a certain amount of money the person will be harmed.  You pay, and then find out that the kidnapping never occurred.

- You receive a phone call stating that someone on your staff or a family member has been in an accident and needs immediate medical attention.  You are asked to pay for the treatment -- always verify.

- 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 after accepting such drinks.

- 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.

Areas of Town to be Avoided and Best Security Practices


The areas in and around the hotel sector can be dangerous, especially at night. Also be wary of open markets.  Taxis and private vehicles should be used when moving about.



All areas of Recife can be considered dangerous, especially at night.  Visitors should try and limit themselves to the areas Boa Viagem, Gracas and Casa Forte.

The RSO Office provides security and travel planning information for those visiting Brazil.  The RSO Office offers the following basic security guidelines to help ensure your safety and security while visiting Brazil:

Visitors should practice common sense preventive security techniques, just as they would in any large city in the world.  Below are some of the more important tips visitors should follow to avoid becoming a crime victim:

- Traveling in groups of two or more persons appears to have a positive effect on deterring the criminal element.

- 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.

- Be aware of the street environment and avoid contact with those who may be looking for crime targets.  Seek a safer location if you suspect you are being pursued.  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.

- Be careful at open markets or crowded areas.

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

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

- Avoid city buses and other public transportation. Many pass through high crime areas and are susceptible to robberies. Use only legitimate taxis.

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


Further Information

U.S. organizations are encouraged to contact the RSO at the U.S. Embassy in Brasília for specific inquires concerning the local security situation.  Information is also readily available from the RSO in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, from the Public Security Officer (PSO) in Recife, through the American Chambers of Commerce, and from the active OSAC Country Councils operating in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

U.S. Embassy Brasília is located at Av. Das Nacoes Sul, Quadra 801, Lote 3. The telephone number (from the United States) is (011-55) (61) 3312-7000. Emergencies and calls after normal business hours may be directed to Post One at (011-55) (61) 3312-7400.  The RSO may be reached through the general Embassy phone number (extension 7390).  The American Citizen Service POC in the Consular Section may be reached through extension 7471.  The Foreign Commercial Officer point-of-contact may be reached through extension 7403.  The Embassy’s fax number is (011-55) (61) 3322-4224.

American Consulate Recife is located at Rua Goncalves Maia 163, Bairro Boa Vista. The telephone number is (011-55) (81) 3416-3050.  The PSO contact may be reached through the Consulate’s general telephone number. The Consulate’s fax number is (011-55) (81) 3231-1906.

American Consulate General Rio de Janeiro is located at Av. Presidente Wilson, 147 Bairro Castelo. The telephone number is (011-55) (21) 3823-2000. Emergencies and calls after normal business hours may be directed to Post One at (011-55) (21) 3823-2029. The RSO POC may be reached at extension 2908. The Consulate’s fax number is (011-55) (21) 3823-2003.

American Consulate General São Paulo is located at Rua Thomas Deloney, 381 Chacara Santo Antonio, São Paulo-SP, 04710-110.  The telephone number is (011-55) (11) 5186-7000. Emergencies and calls after normal business hours may be directed to Post One at (011-55) (11) 5181-7373.  The RSO POC may be reached at (011-55) (11) 5186-7260. The Consulate’s fax number is (011-55) (11) 5186-7099.


OSAC Country Council

Please note that Brasília and Recife do not have OSAC Country Councils.  OSAC Country Councils in Brazil are located in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.   For additional information please read the Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo Crime and Safety Reports or contact the Consulates.