Where are the Police?

Florianopolis Travel Blog

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            One of my first impressions of Brazil – one which did not become solidified until after a week or so into our visit – is that police really don’t seem to care.  In fact, they were almost non-existent.  There were plenty of times, particularly in Florianopolis, that I saw something occur that would make the police in the United States go absolutely ballistic.

            The most common instance of defiance of the law was when we were offered drugs every day on the way to class.  One of the local homeless men saw that we were obviously not locals so every time we passed he would say to us “Weed?  Weed?  Hey!  Weed?”  After kindly refusing him a few times it became a little joke between us.  He would start greeting us and smile before saying “Weed??”  While we all laughed it off after seeing the man was completely harmless, I couldn’t help but wonder how quickly he would have been arrested in a comparable U.S. city of Floripa’s size.  He wouldn’t make it 2 minutes without being snatched up by one of the cops that are on every other city block. 

            Another incredibly clear example was when Brazil played Australia in their 2nd game of the World Cup.  People were walking around waving flags, shouting, and drinking all over the city.  There are no open container laws in Brazil, so the fact that people were walking around the streets with beers in their hands is not surprising at all.  However, I saw not once but twice, someone driving a car through the streets with a beer in one hand hanging out the driver’s window.  Now that is definitely illegal in Brazil.  Why were the drivers doing this?  Was it carelessness?  Doubtful.  I wouldn’t think that two people on two different streets could be that dumb.  I think it had more to do with the fact that the drivers know how the system – or lack thereof – works in Floripa.  They’ve probably lived there their whole lives and notice the same thing that I did in a few days: there are no police.

            Walking to the beach one day I saw something that seemed foreign and out of place.  It couldn’t be what I thought… but alas it was: a police station.  It was about the size of my hotel room and inside was one officer watching TV.  Outside were no police cars, but I had yet to see any police on the road.  So where are all the cops?  I thought I was going to go the entire 10 days through Florianopolis without seeing a police officer on the road when finally, on the 8th day of our stay, I finally saw a police car.  The officer inside was reading the paper.

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photo by: Vagabondatheart