skip to primary navigationskip to content

The Illusion of Peace? Understanding São Paulo's Violence Decline

When Apr 26, 2016
from 06:00 PM to 07:30 PM
Where Room B3, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge
Add event to calendar vCal

The Illusion of Peace?

Understanding São Paulo's Violence Decline

Contrary to many stereotypes, homicide rates have declined dramatically in the state and city of São Paulo, Brazil. From war-time homicide rates in the late 1990s, deaths from homicide have fallen by whopping 74% between 2001 and 2008. There is much debate about what might lie behind this surprising drop. Explanations include better investment in social policies, acceleration of the economy and a reduced share of young people in the population. Alternatively, could better gun control laws and changes in policing explain the new peace? Others suggest that the criminal group, Primeiro Comando da Capital, has gained a temporary monopoly of violence and reduced the need to kill rivals. Two experts will share their views on what lies behind this surprising violence decline in São Paulo and draw potential lessons for policy making.


Dr Graham Denyer Willis

University Lecturer in Development and Latin American Studies, Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge 


Dr Maria Fernanda Tourinho Peres

Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, Preventive Medicine Department, University of São Paulo Medical School 


The event is chaired by Professor Manuel Eisner, Director of the Violence Research Centre at the University of Cambridge. 

The seminar is followed by a discussion and refreshments.

All welcome! 

Join the event on Facebook



Dr Graham Denyer Willis


Graham Denyer WillisGraham Denyer Willis is University Lecturer in Development and Latin American Studies in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge, and Fellow, Queens' College. Focussing on urbanisation, governance and security in cities of the Global South, his work has been published in World Development, Latin American Research Review among other peer-reviewed journals. His first book, The Killing Consensus: Police, Organized Crime and the Regulation of Life and Death in Urban Brazil was published by the University of California Press in 2015. As a dissertation it won three awards. His current research examines how these same dynamics are being transposed to the internet and social media spaces.


The Regulation of Life and Death in São Paulo

In this talk I examine the empirical practice of enforcement of who can die and who cannot in the city of Sao Paulo, Brazil. I draw on ethnographic research carried out between 2009 and 2012 with homicide and other detectives, evidence from communities controlled by this city's organised crime group -known as the PCC-, and data from punishment records of this group, to illustrate which rules are observed and by whom, when it comes to violent death. I detail how this organisation decides when and why individuals can be killed, how this happens in the historically violent parts of the city, and how the influence of this organised crime group is unexceptional and largely uncontested in homicide investigations. I argue that the PCC's regulation of life and death in the historically abandoned parts of cities conversely empowers the state's claim to have reduced homicides in the city.


Dr Maria Fernanda Tourinho Peres


Maria Fernanda Peres


Maria Fernanda Tourinho Peres is a medical doctor with Master’s degree in Epidemiology and PhD in Public Health from Federal University of Bahia, Brazil. She is an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the Preventive Medicine Department, University of São Paulo Medical School, an Associate Researcher at NEV/USP, and the head of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Research on Violence and Violence Prevention in São Paulo. She is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Violence Research Centre, University of Cambridge.


Homicide Reduction in Sao Paulo: A Descriptive Analysis and Some Possible Explanations
In the 80s and 90s Brazil experienced an accelerated growth of homicide rates, making it one of South America's most violent nations. In the late 90s Sao Paulo was as one of the state capitals with the highest homicide rates in Brazil. Urban violence was considered among the most serious problems by the population. With the entry into the twenty-first century homicide rates have been falling steadily in the municipality and the state of Sao Paulo. In 2010 Sao Paulo had the lowest homicide rate among all state capitals. The purpose of this presentation is to describe the evolution of homicide in Sao Paulo and present the main hypotheses that have been discussed to explain the observed reduction in homicide rates.


Join the VRC on social media!

Join us on Youtube and Facebook

Would you like to stay updated about the Violence Research Centre's research, events, news in the field of global violence reduction and opportunities to work with us? "Like" us on Facebook. If you have missed some of our past events, have a look at our YouTube Channel. You can now find us on LinkedIn and Twitter