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December 20, 2010

Helping to Tackle Brazil’s Homicide Problem

Brazil has emerged in the last few years as one of the world’s most robust and optimistic economies.

Japan which has close historical ties with the Latin American nation – there are as many as 1.5 million Brazilians of Japanese descent following waves of emigration to that country which began in 1908—helped to stimulate the country’s enviable development by promoting, among other activities, an agricultural revolution.

Another venerable Japanese institution is now helping Brazil combat a more unwelcome fallout from its recent expansion – crime, and particularly homicide.

According to the latest U.N. Survey Brazil’s murder rate is currently 22 per 100,000 people, the 12th highest in the world.

Photo'Koban' has helped greatly improve community safety.

In 2003 the mega city of Sao Paolo staggered under an even worse murder spree—30.1 persons per 100,000 population or five times higher than the American state of California.

Enter Koban—a concept of community policing which had its original in Japan in 1874 and which has developed into a nationwide network of at least 6,000 local police stations, or Koban. The Tokyo metropolitan area alone has some 1,200 easily recognizable centers.

Koban are manned with anywhere from one to a dozen officers, sometimes around-the-clock, who forge close ties to the communities in which they work, offering services ranging from providing simple directions to solving local crime.

Brazil’s Sao Paolo state and its capital city began introducing the Koban concept in 1997 bolstered by practical Japanese assistance and training. The latest project initiated by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in 2008 aims to further strengthen the police structure and eventually expand it to a national level.

Results have already been impressive and the crime rate in Sao Paolo city and one particularly dangerous district, Ranieri, has dropped by 70% in recent years.

Those figures are particularly encouraging because Brazil is scheduled to host two major sporting events in the next few years when security will be paramount – the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.

JICA has helped other nations such as Singapore, Indonesia and Honduras to introduce the Koban concept.

Brazil hosts annual seminars for police officials from surrounding countries such as Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Costa Rica and Sao Paolo State Military Police General Commandant said recently: “We are willing to continuously support (these countries) with human resources and training.”


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