Local quarrels and conflicts, the decision to drop out of school, precarious working conditions, and economically and financially fragile families are all part of the predicament involving adolescents who kill or have been murdered in Fortaleza, capital city of the state of Ceará, in the Brazilian Northeast. Their plight is described in a survey by the Ceará Homicide Prevention Committee—a group formed by lawmakers from the state's Legislative Assembly, representatives from state government, Fortaleza's city hall and organizations from the civil society.
Researches visited a number of districts, especially those farther off the main city center, as well as juvenile detention centers, and gave a total of 385 questionnaires to family members of adolescents who have either been killed or are carrying out socio-educational work for murder. Despite the way stories differ, patterns can be found. Of the murdered adolescents, for example, 73% were killed in the district or neighborhood where they lived.
“Many mothers could hear the shots that had their sons killed,” said Camila Holanda, a researcher on the committee's technical team. Holanda believes the similarities between the stories unveil the existence of an adolescence that has been abandoned, also by public services. Of the boys killed, for example, 74% had left school, and 64% of those who committed murder were facing the same situation.
State deputy Renato Roseno, rapporteur in the committee, said that murder cases with adolescents as victims or perpetrators rose considerably in the last 16 years in Fortaleza. The Violence Map reveals that the city has Brazil's highest child and adolescent homicide hate.
“Murder isn't an isolated event, but rather a process that starts with abandonment: vulnerability challenging families and individuals brought about by the absence of public policies and by the area where they live. Warning signs abound, like the access to the gun market, threats that go uninvestigated, and the total lack of answers to existing homicide cases,” he listed.
Roneno said the goal of the study is to reach beyond the common sense and understand what leads to homicide, with a view to directing public policies for prevention accordingly.
The study also found that 85% of adolescents in detention centers have their mother as their main guardian in the family. Rui Aguiar, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Coordinator for Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte, and Piauí, sees it a starting point for the tragic lives led by these boys.
“Most of the households have as their main income the income of the woman, who was often a pregnant adolescent, left school, missed opportunities and now has a precarious job or only the Bolsa Família [Family Allowance cash transfer program] to survive on,” he said. To Aguiar's judgment, the prevention of homicides during adolescence should encompass robust investment on policies directed at women.
Translated by Fabrício Ferreira