Recently a close relative with roots in Brazil traveled there after not having been in the country for a couple of decades. Before going, he seemed to express a certain amount of trepidation about personal security issues. Basically, I reassured him not to worry, but to me attentive and street smart just as one might be in San Francisco, Los Angeles or New York.
Thinking about it again, I wonder if my advice might not have been a bit cavalier. Brazil with a 100 million people less than the US has many, many more deaths by firearms. True, most of the deaths, as in the US are gang related and occur in or near the slums. On the other hand, when in Brazil we always try to be aware of our surroundings and, unlike where I live everything has to be tied down, locked up, chained and protected. Otherwise, the expectation is that whatever will not be there when you return. Brazilians like to say that opportunity makes the thief. As a result, the mentality is to not offer any opportunity at all. So don’t leave things in the car. Don’t leave the car unattended or unlocked. Always check over your shoulder because the kid hustling up next to you may want your wallet. My wife, for example, has concerns about petty thievery on the street and most other women that I know do as well.
Another situation is when you visit an office building or even a friend’s apartment. At the office, you must show an identification, have your picture taken, get a badge, go through security and use the badge as your means of exit. The elevators tend to be quite modern and you have access only to the floor to which the door person gave you authorization.
How about when you go to the bank? Piece of cake. The security checks you out to make sure you have business. Before you walk through a circular security door of bullet proof glass, you need to put all of your metal belongings in a locker or stuff them in a security box under the guard’s watchful eyes. Most of the time you will be on tape. That is also true of when you go to visit your friend. The elevator has a security camera so make sure you are not picking your nose or inappropriately touching yourself or your neighbor.
Do Brazilians care about this stuff? No, not a bit. In fact, we find it somewhat comforting although we also know that when the “arrastao” comes, it doesn’t really make any difference. We just live with it and our fatalism goes on its normal automatic pilot.