Photo credit: Mateus Dantas / O Povo

Brazilian prison gangs have spilled out to the outside world and become criminal enterprises. The expansion of São Paulo’s Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC) and Rio de Janeiro’s Comando Vermelho into all regions and most states in Brazil signifies a major security concern for the country. A third player, Família do Norte (FDN), poses a challenge to the other organized criminal groups (OCGs), especially in the North region, where the FDN fights to retain control of the lucrative drug trading route through the Amazon. Although organized crime is believed to play a significant role in the violence level in Brazil, no study has been able to measure their presence and activity levels beyond one city or state.

This dissertation develops a novel methodology for detecting the presence and activity level of OCGs in Brazilian states using the number of Google searches for the years between 2004 and 2019. I estimate the level of competition between the different OCGs, and use this information to help explain the variation in homicide rates across time and space. I argue that OCG presence and activity levels by themselves do not explain homicide rates well; in fact, some states with high levels of OCG activity have relatively low homicide rates. However, in combination with a highly competitive scenario, the strong presence of these groups can translate into high levels of violence. Expert interviews help elucidate what the expansion of these powerful groups mean for society and state institutions.

Working Papers

The Dark Side of Competition: Organized Crime and Violence in Brazil

The Expansion of Organized Crime in Brazil, 2004-2021

State-Criminal Alliances and Community Predation: Evidence from Rio de Janeiro

with Edgar Franco-Vivanco and Beatriz Magaloni

Supporting Youth and Families to Prevent Risky Youth Behavior and Delinquency: An Impact Evaluation of a Family Counseling Program in the Caribbean

with Alberto Diaz-Cayeros and Rachel Pizatella-Haswell

(under journal review)

Policy reports

Impact Evaluation of the PMGSY Rural Roads Program in India. The World Bank. Forthcoming.

Media: The Indian Express, Hindustan Times 1 and 2

Improving Measurement of Youth and Young Adult Delinquency Risk. USAID Report. 2021.

Evaluation of Secondary Prevention in the Community, Family and Youth Resilience (CFYR) Program in St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis and Guyana. USAID Impact Evaluation Final Report. 2020.

Impact Evaluation of the ‘Increasing Services for Survivors of Sexual Assault in South Africa’ Program. USAID Impact Evaluation Final Report. 2017.

Changing Relationships Between Police and Society: What Inspiring Experiences in Rio de Janeiro, Medellin and the U.S. Can Teach Mexico. Stanford University Program on Poverty and Governance Policy Brief no. 1, 2011.

Other publications

The Favelas of Rio de Janeiro Have a Promising New Policing Program

Kulturaustausch – Zeitschrift für internationale Perspektiven (Germany), January 2013.

The Pacification of Favelas in Rio de Janeiro. Manuscript. 2011.

Going Beyond Bolsa Família to Solve Underdevelopment Problems in the Brazilian Northeast

Debates Latinoamericanos, no. 16, 2011.