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With the world cup only a few weeks  away (yep, football even permeates the front page of The Loadstar – that’s just how pernicious the damn game is), cargo crime in Brazil has soared to unprecedented levels.

And after police authorities in some of the largest cities, particularly Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro, have cracked down on gang activity in the favelas, there are growing fears that criminals have turned to cargo theft after their traditional sources of income became constrained.

In the first quarter of this year, cargo crime in the state of Rio de Janeiro increased by 62%, year-on-year, with 1,388 incidents during the period, while Sao Paolo state saw a rise of 18% with 2,154 thefts recorded –  according to a new report from Freightwatch International.

Over half of the crimes occurred in the state capital city itself.

“Industry sources in Brazil believe some drug traffickers and other organised criminals turned to cargo crime in São Paulo state after police peacekeeping units (Unidades de Policía Pacificadora) deployed to gang-controlled areas had some successes,” the report says.

The Brazilian Forum for Public Security recorded around 13,000 freight crimes in the country in 2013, a figure thought to be considerably below the true level, due to under-reporting. Nonetheless, that still equates to 35 incidents each day, and it is clearly a growing epidemic, with crimes in Rio de Janeiro city increasing by 142% in the period – from 330 incidents in the first quarter of last year to 797.

Last month, Brazil’s National Association of Freight Transport and Logistics said that 70% of the country’s cargo crimes were carried out in cities and the remaining 30% on its highways – although the volume and value of goods stolen on highways is greater.

The association’s security adviser Paulo Roberto de Souza said criminals operating in urban areas carried out thefts at traffic lights, petrol stations and warehouses, while on highways “they implement strategies to paralyse trucks or set up fake checkpoints”.

In addition, the use of GPS jammers to interrupt communication between trucks and distribution centres are increasingly common, and they can be bought for as little as $45.

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  • Michael Webber

    June 02, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    There’s detailed information on Rio and Sao Paulo, and then the statement “Over half of the crimes occurred in the capital city itself.” I didn’t realize that Brazil’s capital, Brasilia, had overtaken Rio & Sao Paulo for cargo crime.

  • Alex Lennane

    June 03, 2014 at 9:00 am

    Sorry – we meant Sao Paulo state’s capital city (Sao Paulo).