Tag Archives: murder

Feeling safe in Brazil

One thing that people from the UK often ask me is whether it is safe to live in Brazil. The image most foreigners have of living here is of the favelas… in particular the international success of the film City of God didn’t help very much.

At face value, the crime statistics are much higher than Britain and the police in São Paulo alone shoot someone dead everyday, but on a day-today basis I don’t feel any unease living here.

When I first arrived, I was endlessly surprised by the amount of security people use to feel safe. Windows have steel bars, shops and banks have armed guards, every police officer is armed, car showrooms offer bullet-proofing as an option…

It all becomes normal through osmosis, but I still question the need for all this security. It would be nice to see a house with a garden, rather than a steel cage “protecting” the residents.

As this Reuters article states, there is an obsession with security in Brazil, but there are also some encouraging signs. The murder rate in New Orleans is five times that of São Paulo and bank robberies across the entire country dropped from over 3,000 a decade ago to 343 last year.

The Reuters article points out some anecdotal evidence, such as people freely using devices such as iPhones on a bus, something unthinkable just a few years ago. In many ways the freedom to use expensive devices such as a smartphone, laptop computer or iPod in public now feels just as it would in any other major city.

Would you walk around an unfamiliar street in New York or London late at night with your senses dulled by music from an iPod and gazing into the GPS-powered map on your iPhone? It’s pretty much the same here these days.

I was with my wife in a local bar the other day and she was telling the bar owner about our plans to move to the coast. Not just for the beach, but also because a smaller town would be safer than the city. He said he can only remember hearing of one robbery in the entire neighbourhood this year so how do we define ‘safer’ than that?

Maybe he just wanted to keep us as good customers. We are the only customers at his bar that run a slate with credit, paying him advance rather than him chasing us to settle the bill, but he sounded genuine.

As with city life anywhere, you can be a victim of crime through sheer bad luck, but most of the time you make your own luck through choices about how much wealth, gadgets, and jewellry  you display.

São Paulo may well have more crime then London, but I’m not scared to ride the bus or walk down the street. I still get unnerved by all the armed guards at banks though. If I am ever nearby when a bank robbery kicks off then I’ll be more scared of the guards than the criminals…

Hob nob robber strikes again

Troy Davis – the confusion

As I write these words, the execution of Troy Davis has been temporarily delayed. Perhaps he will still die this evening at the hands of the Georgia State justice system. Perhaps he will live on to fight his case.

I’m only blogging to make a couple of quick points, because the online comment about the Davis case is getting overwhelming – and even a couple of short points are too much for Twitter:

  1. I agree that the state-sponsored killing of citizens is wrong, even if they are found guilty of a crime, however the for/against death penalty argument is entirely tangled up with people calling for Davis to live, to the point that many are now suggesting it ‘doesn’t matter’ if he is guilty or not. The family of the man he allegedly murdered in 1989 would beg to differ.
  2. I would normally trust Amnesty International in cases like this, but there is quite a lot of online debate and reports from the District Attorney’s office suggesting that the Davis case has been thoroughly re-examined and the guilty verdict is only standing after a long period of checking and checking again. Who do we trust? I don’t personally know the intimate details of the case, so is the DA or Amnesty right on this?

Whatever happens to Troy Davis tonight, the outrage over his fate will at least encourage some people to investigate the unfairness and racial bias of capital trials in the US. And I don’t mean unfairness in that state-sponsored killing is unfair… if US states insist on capital punishment then the very least they should do is to apply it consistently and fairly.

I hope he manages to cheat death tonight, but I also hope that he is an innocent man with a court verdict that still has not been proven beyond reasonable doubt. If Amnesty has stirred all this up after a thorough investigation by the DA then it would make me inclined to ignore any of their future appeals.
Oppose the Death Penalty for Troy Davis aka “Tricia Wang _831143653_ac668b67cd_o _Ascgen _Rasterbator _GIMP”

The Met get their men, at last…

To say that justice was not done back in 1993 when black teenager Stephen Lawrence was murdered in London is an understatement. It is to the credit of the Metropolitan police – written off as institutionally racist during the investigation into this case – that they have now charged two suspects with the murder.

It’s eighteen years since the crime and Stephen Lawrence was just 18 when he died. The suspects in the 1996 trial were obviously guilty as far as the general public were concerned – their criminal families were even caught trying to nobble the jury – but the judge could not sentence them without reasonable doubt.

In short, the scientific evidence at that time was just not good enough for a safe conviction even if every copper in London knew in their bones that they had caught the right guys. So it’s pleasing to hear that the boffins have improved their analysis of the evidence and found compelling new evidence that should be heard in court – leading to the arrest of these two suspects, one of whom has already stood trial for the murder back in the 90s.

Because the double jeopardy rules have changed – it used to be impossible to be tried again for a crime you were previously acquitted of – they are now going to have to stand trial at the Old Bailey for the murder of Lawrence, with the CPS presenting fresh new evidence even after all this time. These sweeping changes to the criminal justice system in the UK were made largely because of the Stephen Lawrence case.

This reopened case is important, not least because it may finally achieve justice for the Lawrence family, but also because the reputation of the police service in London was dragged through the mud after this case collapsed. The police were accused of being racist Neanderthals, not much better than the murderers, and certainly not bothered about the loss of a black kid from a rough neighbourhood.

It took a long time for anyone to acknowledge that Stephen Lawrence was a talented kid with a good school record and no criminal record and he was working hard to become an architect. The Royal Institute of British Architects now holds an annual prize in his name and memory.

Justice won’t bring back a murdered individual, but in this case it can remove the bitterness the family – and nation – feels that these thugs got away with it for so long. It also goes some way towards rehabilitating the reputation of the Metropolitan police, who have never quite got beyond the ‘Gene Hunt’ school of policing in the opinion of most middle-class Londoners.

I wont forget this case myself because I was at the 1998 inquiry in person as the London representative of Amnesty International. As the five accused men left the inquiry, a sea of hundreds of – mostly black – Londoners closed in and pelted them. Being close to the front of the crowd, half the missiles were raining down on me and the people nearby!

At one point, I looked up and a steel ladder was flying overhead… Some of the accused men actually traded punches with the crowd, with the police desperately trying to prevent a full-scale riot in Elephant and Castle.

Let’s hope that this time, the Met get their men. It’s been a long time coming.

The Old Bailey


A Facebook group has just started: “R.I.P RAOUL MOAT YOU LEGEND! ♥”

Already, it has nearly 18,000 members all talking about their admiration for the ‘legend’ who just killed himself.

I was at a party the other day and there was a guy there talking about how much he admires Moat for being a real-life Rambo, for fighting against the system, and for doing what he wanted…

It’s easy to understand why people admire Moat. They like the idea of freedom. To live freely and to kill or destroy anything that causes a problem in your life, but to start expressing admiration on Facebook for an armed killer who was running loose on the streets seems a bit naive.