Security measures in Salvador are unlikely to bring about significant reductions in violent crime by the 2014 World Cup.
BY CARLOS CAICEDO
Gang-related violence is increasing markedly in Salvador, Bahia, a popular tourist destination in north-eastern Brazil and a host city of the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and 2014 FIFA World Cup. A key driver is rivalries between criminal gangs, as well as rising crack cocaine addiction and drug local trafficking. This translates into higher travel risks for those visiting the city, with murders, car-jackings and muggings becoming increasingly common.
Salvador's homicide rate increased from 12.9 victims per 100,000 people in 2000 to 53.51 in 2011. This compares to a national rate of 27.3 in 2010. However, local media have report a rate of 73.4 in the city's central area. Most murder victims are locals and gang members, with most incidents limited to specific hotspots which are far from the hotels zone of Barra frequented by most tourists.
Foreigners in and around Barra are, however, very likely to be affected by petty crime, especially when the police presence is reduced at night. There are specialized gangs that carry out muggings at knifepoint, particularly around the Cidade Baixa and Baixa dos Sapateiros areas, which are within a kilometer of the touristic historic center (Pelourinho).
Such muggings only tend to result in injury or death if victims refuse to cooperate with the assailants. Although foreign visitors to the city are unlikely to be kidnapped for ransom, those traveling alone are vulnerable to 'express kidnapping' (detained for a short period and forced to make cash withdrawals).
In an attempt to mitigate the rising violence the local government has increased spending on public security and has begun to adopt the UPP model used to successfully tackle crime in Rio de Janeiro. This involves the establishment of permanent police 'pacification' units in crime hotspot neighborhoods (favelas), rather than relying on short-term operations.
Other measures include the January 16 opening of a new station aimed at tourist protection near the port's passenger terminal. It is noteworthy that such measures in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo took several years to lead to a fall in violent crime.
As such, Salvador is unlikely to see significant falls in such crimes ahead of the Confederations Cup in June 2013, with only minor improvements likely by the World Cup in June 2014.
Carlos Caicedo is the Director Latin America Forecasting at Exclusive Analysis, recently acquired by IHS.