Homicides in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro have fallen to their lowest level in nearly 30 years when the government began keeping records, according to new figures released on Tuesday by Brazil’s Public Security Institute.
Over the course of 2019, there were 3,995 cases of intentional homicide, compared to 5,346 in 2017. Homicides on record peaked at 8,483 in 1995. Two of the five areas with the greatest reduction are in the city of Rio de Janeiro, while three others are in different cities across the state.
Melina Risso, program director at the security think tank the Igarapé Institute, told the Brazilian newspaper El Globo that the fall could be attributed to a number of factors that need to be further investigated.
“The result may be related to investments made in federal [government] intervention in public security and the number of weapons seizures,” she explained. “These are factors that still need to be further studied.”
The figures will come as a further boost to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who swept to power in late 2018 on promises to radically reduce crime and improve public security by providing greater authorities to the police and the military. This pledge strongly resonated with voters given that 2017 was the country’s most violent year in recent history, with around 60,000 homicides nationwide amid brutal warfare between rival drug cartels and criminal gangs.
Bolsonaro was himself a major victim of Brazil’s wave of violent crime after he was nearly fatally stabbed by a self-proclaimed socialist during a public rally in the city of Juiz de Fora near Rio de Janeiro in September 2018. After spending a month in the hospital, he was eventually allowed to return home but could not return to the campaign trail and needed multiple surgeries to prevent further injury.
Last August, the 64-year-old former army captain was also boosted by news that the country as a whole had seen a 20 percent fall in homicides just four months into his presidency. Figures released by Brazil’s Ministry of Justice documented 13,142 reported homicides from January to April 2019, compared to 16,670 during the same period in 2018.
The latest statistics also determined that the number of people killed in confrontations with police had reached record levels, with 1,810 cases over the past year, an average of five a day. This is the highest number recorded since 1998 when records of such data began. The rise could be a result of security forces having more authority to shoot suspected criminals who do not surrender, a policy that Bolsonaro has actively encouraged.