Concentration of Urban Violence in Fortaleza and Strategies for Crime Prevention

Date01 December 2021
Published date01 December 2021
Concentration of Urban Violence
in Fortaleza and Strategies for
Crime Prevention
egis Fac¸anha Dantas
and Serena Favarin
Despite the continued prevalence of violence in Latin America, there is a relative dearth of research
investigating both spatial patterns of violent crimes and the effectiveness of evidence-based crime
prevention policies in Brazil. This study aims to address this gap in extant knowledge by creating a
Spatial Violence Index and a Restrictive Ambient Index to investigate the spatial dynamics of violent
crimes and urban vulnerabilities in Fortaleza. Both exploratory spatial data analysis and spatial
regression models were employed to visualize the associative patterns and measure the correlation
between the two indexes. The results demonstrate how locations characterized by high levels of
violence are spatially correlated with more vulnerable locations in terms of both socio-economic-
demographics and urban disorder. Overall, the study identified 124 vulnerable micro-territories that
would benefit from the allocation of resources in an effort to reduce violence in the city by
enhancing the efficiency of policing and prevention strategies.
urban violence, spatial analysis, local vulnerabilities, concentration of violence, Latin America,
In 2018, Brazil registered the highest number of homicides in the world, along with ranking among
the seven countries with the highest homicide rate at the global level (UNODC, 2021). According to
prior studies and a recent systematic review, both an evidence-based approach to crime prevention
and targeted strategies of predictive policing at micro-places can help to reduce crime as well as
allocate resources more effectively and efficiently (Braga et al., 2019; Braga et al., 1999; Meijer &
Wessels, 2019; Ratcliffe et al., 2011). Research has also demonstrated how this approach could also
be expedient for tackling violent crimes in Latin America (de Oliveira et al., 2019; Muggah &
Department of Public Security of the State of Cear´
a, Fortaleza, Cear´
a, Brazil
a Cattolica del Sacro Cuore & Transcrime, Milano, Italy
Corresponding Author:
egis Fac¸anha Dantas, Department of Public Security of the State of Cear´
a, Av. Bezerra de Menezes, 581, Fortaleza, Cear´
60325, Brazil.
Criminal Justice Review
ª2021 Georgia State University
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/07340168211038043
2021, Vol. 46(4) 466–483
Tob´on, 2019). Nevertheless, despite the widespread violence in Latin America’s urban contexts,
there is a scarcity of studies that have analyzed spatial patterns of violent crime in this region and/or
delineated potentially effective and efficient crime prevention strategies.
This study aims to address this gap in ex tant knowledge and literature by in vestigating the
micro-dynamics of violent crimes in the city of Fortaleza. In 2018, Fortaleza registered around
70 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, which ranked it among the 10 most violent cities in the world.
The city is the state capital of Cear`a and is located in the Northeastern region of Brazil. With a
population of more than 2.5 million people, it is the fifth largest city in Brazil. According to the most
recent crime trends, although the homicide rate there decreased in in 2019, Fortaleza nevertheless
remains one of the most violent cities in the country (Seguridad, Justicia y Paz, 2021). Both drug
trafficking offenses and lethal and intentional violen t crimes appear to be largely concentrated
within specific areas of the city where precarious settlements (e.g., tenements, slums, and irregular
subdivisions of low-income residents) are located, thus pointing toward a potential spatial associ-
ation between these crime types and places characterized by social disorganization and urban
vulnerability. This study constructs two indexes using Principal Component Ana lysis (PCA) to
measure the level of violence at micro-places (Spatial Violence Index [SVI]) as well as the level
of vulnerability of those micro-places in terms of socio-economic-demographics and disorder point
of view (Restrictive Ambience Index [RAI]). The spatial and statistical relationship between these
indexes are then measured through an exploratory spatial data analysis (ESDA) and a set of statis-
tical models (i.e., ordinary least square [OLS], spatial auto regressive model, and spatial error model
[SEM]). The concentration of violence largely occurs in vulnerable areas, and there is a spatial
association between the concentration of violent crimes and highly vulnerable places in Fortaleza.
The study identified 124 vulnerable micro-territories which would benefit from the allocation of
resources in order to reduce violence in the city. Given that those areas are characterized by high
levels of socio-economic-demographic vulnerability and disorder that, in turn, make them fertile
ground for violence, as part of the process of carrying out a cost-benefit analysis balance, crime
prevention policies should seek to prioritize those areas to maximize the results in terms of violence
In the first section, this article provides an overview of previous relevant analyses of crime
concentration at the microlevel within different urban settings. The second section delineates both
the empirical strategy and methodologies that were adopted to investigate the relationship between
violence and place-based vulnerabilities. The third section presents the results of the spatial and
statistical analysis that was performed to test this relationship. The fourth sect ion puts forward
suggestions for crime prevention and the allocation of resources, while the fifth section concludes
the article.
Literature Review
From the early 1980s up until the present historical juncture, there has been an emergent theoretical
interest in the micro-dynamics of crime, with a substantial number of studies delineating the ways in
which crime tends to cluster within specific places. In particular, studies on the spatial concentration
of criminal events have proliferated over the last two decades. Indeed, understanding the
micro-dynamics of crime has become a predominant area of scientific inquiry within the field of
criminology in light of the emergence of strong evidence supporting the fact that crime concentrates
within micro-spaces of urban settings. The findings of these studies have substantial implications for
crime forecasting and police resource allocation models, which ultimately aim to develop successful
crime prevention programs within specific places (Braga & Weisburd, 2010; Braga et al., 1999;
Johnson, 2010; Sherman & Weisburd, 1995). Indeed, according to extant literature, the places in
which crime concentrates are invariably characterized by specific features that make them
Dantas and Favarin

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