RIO DE JANEIRO – More than a third of the inhabitants of the Brazilian metropolis of Rio de Janeiro say they agree that “a good criminal is a dead criminal,” an attitude seen as fueling a nationwide dirty war in which security forces kill nine people per day on average.
That extreme view of crime-fighting is apparent in a new report “Olho por Olho?” (An Eye for an Eye?), which was presented Wednesday in Rio and reveals that 37 percent of the city’s inhabitants agree with that controversial maxim, a point of view that is more widely shared by men than women and by more Catholics than Protestants.
Sixty percent of those polled say they are not in agreement with that phrase, while of that group 40 percent say extrajudicial killings are not justifiable and that they do not support the death penalty.
Half of the survey’s respondents say criminals deserve no rights because they do not respect others, while 25 percent say the problem of criminality could be solved if police had carte blanche to kill criminals.
The poll also found that 64 percent of Rio inhabitants have little faith in the courts and believe that the odds are “low or very low” that a criminal will be punished through the justice system.
But the survey, conducted by Rio-based Candido Mendes University’s Security and Citizenship Study Center, also reveals local inhabitants’ deep distrust of the security forces: 69 percent say police cannot distinguish an ordinary working person from a criminal.
Indeed, a majority of men (66 percent), blacks (63 percent), young people (69 percent) and residents of the city’s slums, or favelas (59 percent), say it is “probable” they will be victims of police violence.
Sixty-two percent say Rio police officers “do too much killing,” while 66 percent say they treat blacks more harshly than whites and 75 percent that police actions are more violent in the favelas than in the rest of the city.
Although the poll was carried out last year among 2,350 respondents, its release coincides with a scandal over the release of video footage showing a pair of Rio police officers late last month executing two injured and unarmed suspects lying on the ground.
It also coincides with the death of a 13-year-old girl who was killed at her school in a poor northern Rio neighborhood after being struck by four stray bullets during that same police operation.
A total of 182 people have been killed in police actions in Rio since the start of the year, a 78 percent increase from the start of 2016.
Police brutality there is consistent with the situation across Brazil, according to official data gathered by the non-governmental Brazilian Forum on Public Security that indicates that law-enforcement officers killed 3,320 people in 2015, an average of nine per day.