For decades, the state of Pernambuco was known as one of the most violent in Brazil. Studies show that in the 30 years prior to 2007, Pernambuco consistently maintained a level of violent crime among the highest in Brazil, reaching in 2001 a rate of 58.8 deaths by violent assault per 100,000 inhabitants, according to data from the National Health System, linked to the Ministry of Health. Such rate was 111% higher than the national average, which was 27.9 per 100,000 inhabitants at the time. The state capital, Recife, between 2000 and 2005, had the highest murder rate among all 27 state capitals in five of those six years, reaching levels above big cities like São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasília. In 2006, the year before the launch of the State’s Program to Fight Violence, known as “Pacto pela Vida” (Pact in Favor of Life), Pernambuco registered 4,478 deaths by intentional homicide according to the same source, following an upward curve since the beginning of the decade.
The studies also showed that during the same period, crime and violence in the state were concentrated in more urbanized municipalities with higher population and they also revealed that 93.4% of deaths by intentional homicide were of male, young or adult citizens. The studies also found a high rate of Violent Crime against property (CVP) – a composite index for all types of theft involving the use of violence, including kidnapping. Pernambuco also showed record levels of violence against women. From 2003 to 2006, the state average was almost a woman killed per day.
There was not an effective public security policy, and this absence resulted in several inefficiencies in the state’s public security system: little dialogue and cooperation between the Public Security Secretariat, the Judiciary, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and other government levels, lack of prevention and rehabilitation initiatives, low rates of imprisonment and investigations’ opening and completion and high availability of firearms without control. Other problems were the high inefficiency in key processes such as offering complaints (Prosecutor’s Office), judging criminals (Judiciary) and arrest warrant execution.
The modernization of the economy favored the expansion of crime and illegal economic activity, such as drug dealing. Besides, there was little Government presence in the regions of greatest social vulnerability. In summary, at the time, it was evident that the State was unable to formulate and implement effective public security policies.
In 2007, after taking over as state governor, Eduardo Campos announced the creation of the Pacto pela Vida Program, with the objective of facing objectively and effectively the state’s public security problem, aiming not only at the reduction of violence and homicide rates, but also involving the fight against the entire set of crimes that caused the population of Pernambuco to live in fear. The program’s main goal is to reduce the state’s homicide rate by 12% each year. The final aim is to achieve, in eight years, the average homicide rate for Brazilian states, which is 27 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.