Growth of Lethal Violence in Brazil 2000–2017: A Space-Temporal Analysis of Homicides

AuthorMarcelo Justus,Vania Ceccato,Temidayo James Aransiola
Published date01 February 2022
Date01 February 2022
Subject MatterArticles
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2022, Vol. 38(1) 34 –55
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10439862211034343
Growth of Lethal Violence
in Brazil 2000–2017: A
Space-Temporal Analysis
of Homicides
Temidayo James Aransiola1, Vania Ceccato1,
and Marcelo Justus2
This study investigates the space-temporal growth of homicide rates in Brazil from
2000 to 2017 and identifies determinants of the country’s growth of homicide rates.
Data from the Brazilian Information System on Mortality and Censuses are used to
estimate growth models combined with spatial statistics and Geographical Information
Systems (GIS). Findings show evidence of change in the geographical distribution
of lethal violence over time, characterized by a steady increase in the North and
Northeast regions and a reduction in growth in the South and Southeast regions of
Brazil. Social disorganization factors namely deprivation, ethnic heterogeneity, and
urbanization are significant positive determinants of the growth of homicide rates.
The results show a reduction of the predictive strength of income inequality and an
increase in that of unemployment from the year 2010 to 2017. The theoretical and
policy implications of these results are discussed.
lethal violence, spatial pattern, social disorganization, Global South
Brazil has one of the highest homicide rates in the world and, according to Cerqueira
et al. (2019), a historically high rate was observed in the year 2017 (around 31.6
1KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden
2University of Campinas, Brazil
Corresponding Author:
Temidayo James Aransiola, Department of Urban Planning and Environment, KTH Royal Institute of
Technology, Stockholm 114 28, Sweden.
1034343CCJXXX10.1177/10439862211034343Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeAransiola et al.
Aransiola et al. 35
homicides per 100.000 population). In the year 2016, this rate was around 30.3, which
was three times the world average; twice the average of countries in America; 30 times
the average of countries in Europe. This makes Brazil a relevant case study on lethal
violence in the international literature.
Apart from the expressively high rate of lethal violence in Brazil, empirical studies
have alerted concerning the changing growth pattern of this crime across Brazilian
regions over time (Ceccato & Ceccato, 2017; Andrade & Diniz, 2013; Justus et al.,
2018; Scorzafave et al., 2015; Soares Filho et al, 2020; Waiselfisz, 2011). For instance,
Scorzafave et al. (2015) found that crime rates are higher in urban areas but have been
increasing more in rural areas while Justus et al. (2018) investigated the “mystery”
around the striking reduction of homicides in the State of São Paulo in the 2000s.
These findings are in line with the observation made by Waiselfisz (2011) regarding
“new patterns” of the geographic distribution of homicide rates in the 2000s, whereby
crime clusters are expanding from capital cities and metropolitan areas to the inland
and smaller cities. Andrade and Diniz (2013) concluded that such increasing growth
of homicide rates in inland municipalities is largely due to their changing economic
This study builds on the evidence from previous empirical studies from Brazil and
uses the social disorganization theoretical framework developed by Shaw and Mckay
(1942) and extended by Sampson and Groves (1989). Therefore, this study posits that
the effect of economic dynamics on the spatial and temporal growth pattern of lethal
violence observed by Andrade and Diniz (2013) for Brazil is only part of a bigger
picture—changes in social disorganization factors, among which, in this study, the
focus is given to economic deprivation, population heterogeneity, and urbanization.
The main objective of this study is to investigate the space-temporal growth of
homicide rates in Brazil from 2000 to 2017 and identify predictors of its growth. First,
the spatial clusters of homicide rates are identified at the municipal level and their
geographical evolution is evidenced. Subsequently, the temporal growth pattern of
homicide rates is descriptively and empirically assessed. Finally, the determinants of
the growth of these rates are identified bearing on the social disorganization theoreti-
cal framework and acknowledging the spatial and temporal patterns observed in the
first two stages.
The novelty of this study is the combination of homicide growth models and the use
of spatial statistics and GIS (geographical information systems) in identifying signifi-
cant space-temporal patterns and the evolution of homicide rates over time.
Accordingly, these patterns are controlled in the empirical model used in investigating
predictors of homicide rates.
Theory and Hypotheses
The Spatial Concentration of Lethal Violence
Crime does not happen randomly in space or time and research has shown that homi-
cides, in particular, tend to show highly concentrated patterns (Cohen & Felson, 1979;

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