Statistics from the nationwide Violence Map study released this week showed that the murder rate in Brazil rose significantly in 2017, reaching a record-setting absolute number of 65,602 homicides in that year. However, countrywide numbers are unable to give the full picture of violence rates in Brazil, which are becoming more intensely concentrated in specific areas.

The same study showed that despite nationwide increases in murder rates, these figures actually decreased in the Southeast, South, and Center-west regions of Brazil. Together, these three areas make up roughly two-thirds of the total national population.

</p> <p>Therefore, it was in the remaining two regions, the Northeast and North, where the spikes in homicides were found. Murders in these areas increased by 68 percent between 2007 and 2017.</p> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img src="" alt="brazil violence map" class="wp-image-21810" srcset=" 1024w, 150w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1066w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /></figure> <p>This week, the latest Violence Map study was published, focusing on the country&#8217;s municipalities and further underlining the concentration of homicides in Brazil.</p> <p>The study&#8217;s authors, from the Institute of Applied Economic Research (<a href=";view=article&amp;id=34944&amp;catid=9&amp;Itemid=8">Ipea</a>) and the Brazilian Forum of Public Security (FBSP), arrived at an astonishing statistic: 50 percent of the 65,602 murders in Brazil in 2017 occurred in just 2.1 percent of the country&#8217;s municipalities.</p> <p>That means that in just 120 Brazilian towns, there were over 32,000 murders in 2017 alone.</p> <h2>Regional differences</h2> <p>In line with the findings of the nationwide Violence Map, this week&#8217;s study showed that of the 20 cities with the highest murder rates in Brazil, 18 are situated in the North or Northeast.</p> <p>Top of that list is Maracanaú, in the state of Ceará, which concentrated a stunning 145.7 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2017. Altamira, the largest Brazilian municipality by area and the site of last week&#8217;s bloody prison riots, comes in second, with 133.7 homicides per 100,000 people.</p> <p>Meanwhile, among the 20 safest cities in Brazil, 17 are located in the Southeast of the country, and a whopping 14 are found in the state of São Paulo.</p> <p>The proud owner of the title of &#8220;Lowest Murder Rate in Brazil&#8221; is Jaú, a city of 146,338 inhabitants in the center of São Paulo state which is known mainly for its abundance of women&#8217;s shoe factories. In 2017, there were only 2.7 homicides per 100,000 people in the town.</p> <iframe src="" width="640" height="480"></iframe> <h2>Silver lining</h2> <p>Despite the increasing overall numbers and the desperate situations in some municipalities in the North and Northeast, the authors of the study have shown some optimism about 2017&#8217;s results.&nbsp;</p> <p>Daniel Cerqueira, the coordinator of the latest Violence Map study, stated that &#8220;once the focal points of the violence are identified, it becomes clear that the challenge [of combating violence] depends on focused public policy, guided by intelligence.&#8221;</p> <p>Furthermore, a previous study from Ipea concluded that in Brazil&#8217;s most violent towns, half of the murders occurred in specific neighborhoods within the municipality, stating that 50 percent of neighborhoods showed murder rates close to zero.</p> <h2>Murderous trends</h2> <p>A majority of Brazil&#8217;s murder capitals owe their troubling status to wars between rival drug factions, the police, and violent militias. Crime in the North and Northeast of Brazil is largely defined by the &#8220;Solimões Route&#8221;—the name given to the drug and arms distribution channel between Colombia and Peru, across the Amazon River, and on to key ports on Brazil&#8217;s northern coast.</p> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/569167"></div><script src=""></script> <p>The struggle for power and influence all along this route has left thousands of bodies in its wake, and recent prison massacres show we should not expect any improvement when 2018 and 2019&#8217;s numbers are eventually released.</p> <p>For instance, 2017&#8217;s &#8220;murder capital&#8221; of Maracanaú lies in the metropolitan region of Fortaleza, which is a key port for transporting drugs to Europe. At least four crime factions have a notable presence in the region, including both national big-hitters First Command of the Capital (PCC) and the Red Command (CV), as well as local outfit Guardians of the State (GDE).</p> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/572962"></div><script src=""></script> <p>In third place is São Gonçalo do Amarante, in the state of Rio Grande do Norte and on the outskirts of the state capital Natal—another notorious departure point for drugs and guns coming along the Solimões Route.&nbsp;</p> <p>A look at some human development statistics from the municipalities with the highest and lowest murder rates paints an even clearer picture of the massive inequalities between Brazil&#8217;s macroregions, as we see below.

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SocietyAug 06, 2019

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BY Euan Marshall

Euan Marshall is a Scottish journalist living in São Paulo. He is co-author of A to Zico: An Alphabet of Brazilian Football.