Undoubtedly, Brazil has a gigantic murder rate (32.4 for 100 thousand people, 11th highest in the world), more than 7 times higher than the United States of America (4.5 in 2014). It is important to warn that I shall not compare the two countries, but just the murder rates (therefore, nothing o health, education and the average citizen life) of Rio compared to the most violent American cities. Lastly, it is good to clarify that in this article I do not defend the government of Rio de Janeiro (both city and State), or the hosting of the Olympics, all worthy of harsh criticism.
Forbes journalist, Kenneth Rapoza, wrote an article about violence in Brazil, showing the scandalous murder numbers in its cities. Furthermore, he used the data from Mexican Institute “Seguridad, Justicia y Paz“, that ranked the 50 most violent cities in the world in 2015 (21 Brazilian among them — Rio is not in the list — and 4 American), and from website “Neighborhood Scout” (based on FBI numbers), in order to compare Rio de Janeiro’s rate (host of this year’s Olympics) to some American cities, as we can notice in the article’s headline: “Brazil is murder capital of the world, but Rio is safer than Compton, Detroit, St.Louis…”.
According to the data from “Seguridad, Justicia y Paz”, taken from “Instituto de Segurança Pública do Rio de Janeiro” (Rio de Janeiro Public Security Institute, “ISP”), the “Cidade Maravilhosa”, had in 2015 murder rate of 18.6 per 100 thousand people. Based on ISP, Globo’s website displayed the graphic below, showing the city’s murder rate fall in recent years:
How does Rio’s 18.6 rate compare to the most violent American cities? More than 30 of them have higher murder rates than Rio (Chicago, who competed against Rio to host the Olympics , is not among them, but it is not far behind, with a rate of 15 per 100 thousand), like this list of the most dangerous American cities, according to “Neighborhood scout” (places which also have very high rates of other violent crimes).
Among the large American cities, with more than 250 thousand people, the following surpass Rio in murder rate: St. Louis, Missouri, 59.23, according to the Mexican Institute (50 to the “Neighborhood Watch”); Baltimore, Maryland, 54.98, according to the Mexican Institute (34 to the “Neighborhood Watch“); Detroit, Michigan, 43.80, according to the Mexican Institute (43,5 to “Neighborhood Watch”); New Orleans, Louisiana, 41.44 according to the Mexican Institute (39 to the “Neighborhood Watch”); Newark, New Jersey, 33; Buffalo, New York, 23; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 23; Memphis, Tennessee, 21; Atlanta, Georgia, 20; Cincinnati, Ohio, 20; Oakland, California, 20; and, a favorite destination of many Brazilians, Miami, Florida, with 19.
With good reasons, one can counter argue, saying that such comparison does not take into account those deaths, perhaps purposely not recorded as homicides in Brazil (not that it does not happen in the U.S). In this sense, a study from Brazilian IPEA (institute of Applied Economic Research), reported by website”UOL” in 2013, showed that more than 100 thousand homicides in Brazil went unaccounted in the last 15 years. Only in Rio de Janeiro State, there were a 16.2 unaccounted murder rate between 2007 and 2010. There is no data in regard to the city of Rio, but there might be a way to try to estimate (not greatly accurate, of course) it. Well, between 2007 and 2010 (39.6; 36.5; 36.6; e 29.8; in chronological order), there was an average 35.62 murder rate in the State of Rio de Janeiro. If we add the purposely not recorded numbers, it would make 51.82, that is, an 45.48% increase. Applying that raise to the 2015 murder rate, the city of Rio would have a 27.05 murder rate per 100 thousand people, still lower that 21 American cities (de from East St.Louis to Fort Pierce in the aforementioned list), even if we ignore nonaccounted deaths in those cities), five of them with more than 250 thousand people: Newark, Detroit, St.Louis, Baltimore and New Orleans.
All thing considered, it is possible to conclude something that might had seemed absurd without all that data: some large American cities, like Detroit and New Orleans, are, probably, more violent than Rio de Janeiro.