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Brazil has almost 5 private security guards for each police officer

09/14/2012 - 10h48

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LUCIANA COELHO
FROM WASHINGTON

Brazil has the second highest ratio of private security guards per police officer in the Americas, of the 22 countries with available data: there are almost five private agents for each officer, more than twice the region's average.

The information is on the 2012 Report on Citizen Security in the Americas, to be released today by the Organization of American States in Washington, and disclosed beforehand to Folha.

The document - which combines data of federal governments, police, statistics institutes and ministries of the region's 34 countries in the past ten years - says Guatemala leads the private security ranking with 6.7 guards per police officer.

Brazil (whose homicide rate is 21 per 100,000 people, half of Guatemala's) has a 4.9 ratio, followed by Chile, with three. The U.S., known for its major private security companies, such as Blackwater, has 1.5 private guards for each police offer. The regional average is 2.3.

"The public security policies have counted on private security guards who aren't even part of the police's structure," Luiz Coimbra told Folha; he is the chief-editor of the report and the coordinator of the Observatory on Hemispheric Security.

"It's important for the private police to be coordinated and organized by the police and to follow the same rules of commitment to human rights, police training and knowledge of police techniques," he says.

He believes privatizing security has become a "big business," especially in Central America, where the governments' structure is poorer.

The report doesn't address other continents but says the expansion of private security is a global phenomenon, and more intense in the Americas, especially in the South and Central regions.

The OAS says that, in the period prior to the 2008 crisis, the sector grew between 8% and 9% a year world-wide - above the global economy and behind only the auto industry - and 11% in Latin America.

The increase also follows the expansion of organized crime, which has diversified its activities and began to compete with the state in some areas.

In Brazil, where there were 1.67 million security guards and 2,904 companies in the sector in 2008 (last data available), Coimbra highlights that the government is trying to gain more control over such private forces, although data on their actions is still insufficient.

Translated by THOMAS MUELLO

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