The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report's publication assesses Brazil at Level 2, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution due to crime. Do not travel to any areas within 150 km of Brazil's land borders with Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and Paraguay due to crime; (Note: This does not apply to the Foz do Iguacu National Park or Pantanal National Park.) or to informal housing developments (commonly referred to in Brazil as favelas, vilas, communidades, and/or conglomerados), at any time of day due to crime.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
The U.S. Consulate in General SAPound o Paulo does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizen Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or establishment, and assumes no responsibility for the quality of services provided.
Review OSAC's Brazil-specific webpage for for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.
There is serious risk from crime in SAPound o Paulo. Crime continues to be a significant concern for visitors of SAPound o Paulo. Similar to most densely populated megacities throughout the world, SAPound o Paulo experiences a high volume of crime ranging from petty theft to homicide.
Financially-motivated crime such as armed robbery, pickpocketing, purse snatching and smash-and-grab thefts occur with the greatest frequency. Criminals engaged in this activity are often armed and will target their victims indiscriminately, with a preference for persons projecting affluence and a lack of awareness of their surroundings. Targeted items include wallets/purses, jewelry, and electronics; cell phones are of particular interest. According to the Secretaria de Seguranca, there were 346,259 cell phones reported robbed or stolen between January and November 2018. Store electronics in the trunk of a vehicle when traveling to and from the airport, and limit the number of possessions carried on your person when out and about in the city.
All neighborhoods in SAPound o Paulo are susceptible to crime, including affluent residential sections where government and business leaders reside. Public transportation hubs, hotel sectors, and tourist areas have the highest rates of robbery and theft. the Secretary of Public Security publishes comprehensive crime statistics.
Street crime is an ever-present problem, especially in the evenings and late at night. Pay particular caution when traveling at night through rural areas and satellite cities, due to the significant potential for roadside robberies. Armed robberies are prevalent throughout SAPound o Paulo. In many of these instances, multiple armed criminals on foot or in vehicles (typically motorcycles) identify an isolated victim, or take advantage of traffic jams to rob a series of gridlocked vehicles. The criminals stop in front of or alongside their victim's vehicle, present a firearm, and subsequently demand all of the victim's valuables, then depart the area. In the majority of these incidents, compliant victims are unharmed.
Exercise extreme caution in SAPound o Paulo nightclubs, which have swindled patrons into purchasing bottles of alcohol without disclosing the actual price of the drinks, at times running up to US$1,000/bottle. Security personnel have physically harassed patrons who refuse to pay, and have taken their credit cards. Do not accept drinks from strangers, and always watch your drink. Scopolamine or a similar drug may be added to your drink. Victims have awoken robbed of possessions and/or sexually assaulted after accepting open drinks. For more information, review OSAC's reports, Shaken: The Don'ts of Alcohol Abroad, and Scopolamine Incidents on the Rise in Colombia.
Residential burglaries also pose a constant threat and concern. According to police, mobile street gangs often target residential areas in the city with more affluence. Criminals from the surrounding satellite cities travel by metro, bus, or car into these neighborhoods looking for targets of opportunity. Family members and household employees should not allow anyone to enter the residential grounds without proper identification and prearranged appointments. Local security companies that monitor security alarm systems 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 homes. Larger properties and commercial sites generally employ 24/7 security guard services.
Organized crime exists on a large scale. The largest Brazilian criminal organization, Primeiro Comando da Capital or PCC, is based in SAPound o Paulo. PCC is a violent prison gang that controls the majority of illegal contraband and drugs coming into/out of the prisons in SAPound o Paulo, and remains an organization of great interest to the government of Brazil and the police.
There are noticeable nationwide increases in reported crime 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 the receipt of a 13th month salary bonus in December that leaves many Brazilians with extra disposable income. Burglars also frequently target vacant homes and apartments during these two months, while owners and tenants are traveling.
A growing area of concern is the rise in cybercrime. Cybercriminals with significant capabilities regularly target U.S. businesses in Brazil. Brazilian cybercriminals are sophisticated and regularly employ malware, and steal billions of dollars annually despite government efforts to stop malicious online activity. Some debit/credit card thefts have been attributed to hacking; close monitoring of banking account information should automatically follow any sales transactions to ensure credit/debit cards and personal information is not compromised. Withdrawing money from ATMs not inside hotels, banks, airports, or other locations with supplementary security measures poses serious risks. Maintain awareness of popular schemes to avoid becoming a cybercrime victim. For more information, review OSAC's report, Cybersecurity Basics.
Other Areas of Concern
Throughout Brazil, low-income informal urban areas known as favelas (sometimes called Communidades) are common and easily recognizable. These areas ruled by drug lords host regular shoot-outs between traffickers and police, as well as other assorted illegal activity, with high frequency. These areas are off-limits to Embassy/Consulate personnel; avoid them.
Parks and recreational areas frequented by visitors and citizens have experienced severe crimes, mostly at night, to include theft and sexual assault. Depart from these public areas before sundown. Although assault and theft are also common during the day, higher rates of crime have been reported at night.
The border areas of Brazil � particularly the Tri-Border Area (TBA) where the countries of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay meet � are havens for drug smuggling and human trafficking. Exercise extreme caution when traveling to these areas. Visitors to Foz de Iguazu should limit activities to the national park's resort areas, and not venture beyond well-guarded tourist sites.
Source: Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC)