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Investigation

Deafening silence

Witnesses are reluctant to give information to the police for fear of reprisals. The code of silence rules in some of Curitiba’s poorest neighborhoods

  • Por
  • 05/08/2013 21:11

One crime out of eleven remains without testimony

A waste collector was murdered with 13 gunshots in April 2010. A young woman was beaten up to death in December 2010. A homeless person was murdered in July 2010 in the Uberaba neighborhood. All these cases have something in common: not a single witness was heard. It is not rare. Throughout the one thousand inquiries of murders that took place in Curitiba between 2010 and 2013 analyzed by the reporters of Gazeta do Povo, 89 cases show no sign of testimony.

One out of eleven inquiries remains without a testimony.In some cases, the police do not even manage to summon witnesses as they fail to identify the victim – this situation can be found when the victim´s corpse is burnt for example. In some cases, the victim has no document and his parents remain unknown to the police.

This is the case of the waste collector. His brother was present at the crime scene. He gave the identification and the cell-phone numbers of the victim to the police. The victim’s ex-wife was contacted by phone. None of them were summoned to be interviewed at the police station.

The corpse of the young woman found dead at Parolin was removed from the crime scene by the SIATE (the state firefighters). The police was informed of the crime by some relatives of the victims. However, none of them was heard by the police. So as the homeless person, the nicknames of two possible suspects were reported anonymously to the police. The investigators did not summon nor localized the two individuals.

Two years and three months after the death of her husband, LR was summoned to testify at the Crime Unit of Curitiba. Unlike many relatives, who request more speed in the investigation, she asked the police not to investigate further on the crime. "I asked them to end their investigations because it will not bring me my husband back. And if I keep speaking to the police, people from the neighborhood will not like it. I have to protect my teenage boy," she told Gazeta do Povo. This is one of the cases where the code of silence, common in some of Curitiba's poorest neighborhoods, prevents the crime from being solved.

L's husband was killed on December 13th 2010 during a block party. He tried to protect people from the assault of a man who showed up at the place. A gang war was taking place between two rival mobs of the region. Many witnesses who were present during the crime were heard by the police but none provided leads for the investigation. This same month, an investigator wrote in the inquiry: "We made a lot of effort investigating the region, interviewing locals about the case, and they clearly expressed fear when talking about crimes that occurred in the neighborhood, due to the ruling 'code of silence'." It harms ongoing investigations." This inquiry was conducted until August 2012. The case was filed a month later.

These facts reappear word by word in other inquiries throughout the reportage. Despite this difficulty, investigations continue, even when slowed down. However, when the inquiry completes three years without suspect, police officers and prosecutors conclude that not much can be done to solve the crime.

Filing the caseCEPM died in August 2010. There was no witness and the few testimonies taken did not bring significant information about the case. On June 25th 2013, police chief Rubens Recalcatti informed the Public Prosecutor Officethat the investigation was going nowhere and that he was done with the case.

Ten days later, Prosecutor Marcela Marinho Rodrigues took note and handed the inquiry to the judiciary so as to file the case due to a lack of evidence. The motive – which follows the standard pattern used by the military police – reports that "most crimes take place in the periphery of the State capital, in neighborhoods where violence is a daily factor in people's lives, where the code of silence rules, resulting in a lack of evidence and making impossible to discover the author of the crime, which therefore dooms the whole investigation." After being closed, every case may be re-opened if needed.

Cases are not all investigated equallyIn January 2011, the Civil Police had to deal with a series of crimes that caught the public attention in Curitiba. Many murders were committed over a short period of time in a neighborhood called Boqueirão. The case appeared on the front page of local newspapers and the police felt pressured to respond. On January 29th, a document attached to the inquiry states that: "Due the repercussion of the case in the press, new orders regarding further interviews of witnesses are to be expected."

Declarations which show that the police give more attention to particular cases are seldom. But, while analyzing the inquiries, it is possible to see that this phenomenon is a reality. While some cases remains without testimonies, others have more than 20 witnesses heard.

Two cases which occurred at the same time illustrate this phenomenon. Businessman LHW was murdered on January 15th in the Portão neighborhood. A day earlier, LFB, a former inmate, had been killed in Cajuru. The murder of the businessman had 19 testimonies. The police also requested information from the speed radars of the area, analyzed the victim's cell-phone and did ballistic exams. The case that took place in the Cajuru neighborhood had three testimonies and no technical evidence. The inquiries of the series of murders that took place in Boqueirão remain opened. They are still unsolved.

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