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Where crimes occur

Regularly published statistics confirm what people see with the naked eye: security is the number one worry of São Paulo citizens. The majority fear being hit by a stray bullet on the streets or of being murdered during a robbery at the crossings on wide avenues. But could it be that the risk of becoming a homicide victim lies primarily in these situations? What is the profile of the murders in the capital and where do they occur with the highest frequency? Who are the criminals and their potential victims? How can one combat urban violence in São Paulo?

A study with regarding this theme is being carried out by three researchers – Regina Maria Giffoni Marsiglia (the project coordinator), Graziela Acquaviva Pavez and Isaura Isoldi de Mello Castanha e Oliveira – of the School of Social Service of the Catholic Pontificate University of São Paulo (PUC-SP), with the support of FAPESP. According to the researchers, the first feedback reveals surprising data: the vast majority of murders happen very close to the victims homes, and the concentration of these crimes is much greater in the districts of the city's outskirts, where the population is generally low income, and has scarce resources in education, health and public security.

By July of 2002, the project intends to map out the scenario of urban violence in three regions of the city of São Paulo and to investigate the expectations and necessities of the victims of aggression and of the families who have lost a member through murder – offering thereafter suggestions for public security policies. The researchers have a partnership with the Center of Reference and Support to Victims of Violence (Cravi in the Portuguese), an institution linked to the State Department of Justice and Defense of the Citizen, and with the support of the departments of Health and Social Assistance and Development.

At the moment the research is in its second phase, that of field work, which consists of interviews at the homes of 3,900 families. They are preparing a CD-ROM, but the data, up until now, is being kept in secret. “Until the end of the research we cannot publish details both for the preservation of the security of those interviewed and to avoid reprisals against those doing the interviewing”, justifies Regina.

The idea for the project came about shortly after professors Graziela and Isaura concluded, in 1997, work on the same line, though it only dealt with the region of Campo Limpo, in the south side of São Paulo. “In partnership with the Center of Human Rights and Popular Education of Campo Limpo, we investigated 12,900 cases of homicide, verifying the death certificates and interviewing the families of various victims” the researchers tell. As a result of the information obtained, the Forum for the Defense of Life was created, and three years ago the Center of Violence and Justice of the Faculty of Social Service of PUC was created, coordinated by the two professors.

“In this interim period, we were invited by secretary Belisário dos Santos Júnior, of the Justice and Defense of the Citizen, to integrate into the commission that created the Cravi” recalls professor Isaura. The Cravi attends to families of the victims of homicide and offers training to professionals involved in the law, social and psychological assistance given to these families.