Brazil is one of the most violent countries on the planet. Data related to intentional aggression followed by death, made available by the DATASUS Mortality Information System/Ministry of Health, show that intentional violent death rates in Brazil varied between 26 and 29 per 100,000 inhabitants from 2000 to 2011 (DATASUS 2013).1

The state of Pernambuco, one of the country’s 27 federative units and the second most populous in the Brazilian Northeast Region,2 was found to have an average homicide rate of 50.40 per 100,000 inhabitants between 2000 and 2011, according to data from the Mortality Information System from the Ministry of Health (DATASUS 2013). Between 2000 and 2005 the average homicide rate was 54.13, while between 2006 and 2011 this average was 46.67. In the period between 2007 and 2011, Pernambuco experienced a 26.26 per cent reduction in homicide rates, an average of 5.25 per cent decrease per year (INFOPOL 2014). Indeed, a reduction was seen every year in Pernambuco between 2007 and 2011 (Silveira et al 2013). According to information from INFOPOL/SDS—an information system from the Pernambuco Secretariat for Social Defence, which has wider coverage than the state’s health system (Sauret 2012)—the reduction in homicide rates reached 39 per cent in the period between 2006–2013, with a corresponding 60 per cent decrease in Recife, the state capital city (Blogs Diário de Pernambuco 2013).

There have not been many successful examples of public policies aimed at reducing homicide in Brazil in the last 20 years (Castro et al 2004; Beato 2008; Ratton 2013). The goal of this paper is to describe one particular public policy, Pact for Life, implemented against this backdrop in the state of Pernambuco, pointing out its characteristics, results and challenges.

Pact for Life (PPV) is a programme of the Pernambuco state government aimed at reducing crime and controlling violence. PPV was implemented in 2007 and put in place a series of law enforcement and crime prevention strategies designed for reducing homicides. The programme has been credited with reducing homicides in the state by almost 40 per cent between January 2007 and June 2013 (INFOPOL 2014). As with any public policy (Marquest and Pimenta 2013), however, PPV’s great challenge is its sustained consolidation. Understanding the programme will be critical to identifying its strong and weak points, as well as outlining mechanisms that will enable its continuity and enhancement.

This paper is divided in two parts. The first provides a chronological description of the development of the Pact for Life programme in Pernambuco from 2007 to 2013, with analytical considerations. The second presents a set of exploratory considerations on some of the programme’s aspects, identified by actors involved in PPV’s preparation and delivery process, who were interviewed for this research.3 Finally, it attempts to provide a sociological analysis and political interpretation of the Pact for Life’s main advances and challenges.

Pact for Life: Building a Public Security Policy

Pact for Life is a public security policy implemented by governor Eduardo Campos. The policy’s implementation began in January 2007, during the governor’s first term in office. His decision to prioritize public security was noteworthy, considering this issue has historically been neglected by the heads of the municipal, state and federal executive branches in Brazil (Sapori 2007). In addition to generally avoiding the issue, these politicians tend to address it simplistically, as a police matter only.

The governor’s bold political decision in his first months in office, acknowledged by practically all of the participants interviewed for this paper, proved to be significant. Importantly, it led to the opening of the Public Security Special Advisory Office, and the hiring of a researcher with experience in the security area as an advisor. It also led to the first institutional reforms in the police forces (such as changing promotion related criteria, which allowed for increasing and renewing actors in commanding positions in the forces).

The first task of the recently created Governor’s Public Security Advisory Office was to coordinate the design process of two products: a diagnosis on violence in the state and, based on this, a state public security plan (PESP-PE 2007). This plan was designed during the months of March and April 2007, based on debates held at the State Public Security Forum. The State Public Security Forum was created as a space for debate, where civil society could be heard, and was split into two sections: technical groups and plenary (Pernambuco 2010).

Sixteen technical groups were put together and organised by issues (including violence against women; people over sixty; children and adolescents; drug policy; prevention; professional appreciation; etc.), where experts, academics, civil society advocates and federal, state and municipal public managers discussed issues relevant to each area (Macedo 2012). Based on this discussion they drafted intervention projects, following a standardised model. Over a hundred projects were produced, and their content was organised into six lines of action: qualified repression; institutional enhancement; information and knowledge management; training and capacity-building; crime and social violence prevention; and democratic management (Pernambuco 2010).

The plenary session, chaired by the governor, took place at the end of April 2007 and was attended by state secretaries and members of the organised civil society. Those attending the plenary session were given the initial systematised document to review and suggest changes. The document was validated by the plenary, which also approved its final format. The Pact for Life programme, seen as concerted actions aimed at reducing violence (particularly crimes against life), and the State Public Security Plan (PESP-PE 2007) were presented to society at the beginning of May 2007 (Macedo 2012).

The main values that guided the building of a security policy were established (coordination between public security and human rights; making qualified repression compatible with specific crime and violence prevention; cross-cutting full public security actions; incorporation of management, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms into the security policy at all levels; social control and participation from the drafting of the strategies to policy delivery), as well as the priority for combating intentional lethal violent crimes (ILVC) and the goal of reducing the rate of such crimes by 12 per cent a year in the state of Pernambuco (INFOPOL 2014). A new public security paradigm was thereby established in the state, based on the consolidation of the above mentioned values (which were in dispute from an institutional perspective, as well as in terms of society), establishing basic priorities (such as the focus on reducing crimes against life, regulated by the goal of reducing ILVC rates by 12 per cent a year) and the intense debate held with civil society.

In line with this new paradigm, in the first months of 2007 integrated actions between the civil and military police were conducted with the aim of dismantling extermination and criminal groups, responsible for a considerable number of homicides in the state (Ratton 2013). In addition, the Statistic and Criminal Analysis Management Bureau, which is part of the Secretariat for Social Defence, was strengthened. This played a major role in producing quality information aimed at supporting police action and the policy’s management and monitoring mechanisms, as well as providing transparency to the process. Furthermore, society in the state of Pernambuco is able to follow violence related figures through quarterly criminal situation reports published and distributed by the Statistic and Criminal Analysis Management Bureau (GACE). The consolidation of values and the formulation of a new security concept was an important cornerstone in PPV’s development. Indeed, this has been pointed out by several of our interviewees, whether government managers or members of civil society.

In the second half of 2007, the Pact for Life management committee started working on a monitoring model. The aforementioned goal of 12 per cent reduction in ILCVs was adopted as one management regulatory element. Another value that guided PPV’s coordination, and served as a guideline for the Management Committee, was advocating for the integrated work of the police forces. In order to achieve this level of integration, a coordination mechanism had to be developed at the government’s central level, as well as at the Secretariat for Social Defence (Macedo 2012). The programme’s management committee began working in a more systematic and regular manner in September 2008.

The implementation of monitoring procedures, as well as their continuous enhancement under the coordination of the State Planning and Management Secretariat (SEPLAG), is key to understanding the success achieved by the public security policy in governor Eduardo Campos’ two terms in office.

The 12 per cent a year reduction goal in ILCVs turned into a management regulatory element for the Pact for Life. In a way, the goal points out the type of city and society one wished to build in Pernambuco. It is important to mention the legitimacy of this goal was in dispute at the beginning of 2007. It faced some resistance from some Pernambuco law enforcement sectors, as well as civil society, before it was established. However, the governor remained a staunch supporter of a results-based management model.

The PPV Management Committee started working regularly in 2008 as a public security policy monitoring mechanism, under the political coordination of the state governor and the technical coordination of the Secretary of Planning. The fact that SEPLAG led the technical coordination of the Management Committee shows the role played by this secretariat in Eduardo Campos’ administration. Furthermore, in relation to public security, it shows a political concept not restricted to the police, but one that involves other government secretariats and liaises with other branches. Moreover, it symbolises and reinforces the governor’s personal commitment to the issue. Therefore, PPV’s management model is underlined by governance, elements of political leadership and power, and management.

Currently, the Management Committee is divided into five technical groups: 1) Social Defence; 2) Prison Administration; 3) Liaison with the Judicial Power, Prosecution Services and Public Defender’s Office; 4) Social Prevention and 5) Fighting Crack. Each of these groups meets between Monday and Wednesday to deliberate on issues that will be addressed in the Management Committee’s weekly meeting, which takes place every Thursday, and is chaired by the governor himself once a month.

PPV’s Management Committee can claim many important achievements:

  1. Consensus on the strategic value of giving priority to police coordinated actions as the main instrument to combat ILVCs in the short and medium term;
  2. Design of protocols and compulsory procedures for integrated action between police forces and weekly result indicators, for each of the 26 integrated security areas in Pernambuco;
  3. Territorialisation of police work, incorporating the state’s division into integrated areas by the public policy management strategic nucleus. Definition of police procedure started to be done according to this territorial division. This enabled a more sophisticated follow-up of the cases in these areas over time;
  4. Territorialisation also brought advances related to the identification of homicide settings and thus, in identifying the causes of violent deaths, which do not follow the same pattern in the whole state, varying between integrated areas. This qualitative advance enabled police forces to act in a more intelligent and sophisticated way against homicides;
  5. Strengthening the Homicide and People Protection Department, in terms of material and human resources, as well as setting up ILVC teams, enabled the increase in the state’s investigative capacity regarding such crimes;
  6. Introducing bonuses and incentives for high-ranking police officers who reached their goals. This mechanism values and incentivises the professional, enabling activity control and the replacement of those who are not in tune with the policy. Therefore, collective gains become individual gains, facilitating the continuous process of institutional change towards a higher level of professionalisation in the police forces;
  7. Promoting coordination between agencies from the Criminal Justice System through a specific technical group. This allowed for timing to be adjusted between the police forces, the Public Prosecution Service, the Public Defender’s Office and the judicial branch.

Thus, it is possible to say that the Management Committee promoted (and still promotes) territory- and problem solving-based police management. The problem to be solved is intentional lethal violent crime. Indeed, the goal is to reduce ILVC rates by 12 per cent per year in the state of Pernambuco, through a combination of qualified repression and social prevention strategies, liaising with the Criminal Justice System and incorporating other state management and civil society actors.

The Pact for Life’s first years have already brought about positive results, but as mentioned earlier, before this was achieved there were years of debate and dispute around this policy’s values and strategies. Therefore, the consolidation of this new public security concept in the state government, police institutions, and other agencies of the Criminal Justice System—namely, the judicial branch, Prosecution Services and the Public Defender’s Office—as well as civil society took place gradually. Hence, it was very important that the government agreed to take part in the public hearings summoned by the Legislative Assembly, as well as debates held at universities and NGOs. It was important for the state administration to have taken up the responsibility of staging the I State Public Security Conference (CESP-PE) in 2009.

CESP-PE was an important moment for the rendering of accounts, listening and dialogue vis-à-vis the PPV programme. The state conference was organised by a joint commission made up of members from government and civil society, and which was organised in the following way: 14 regional conferences (11 in the state’s hinterlands and 3 in the Recife metropolitan region) and the State Conference. Those taking part in the conferences were public security professionals, government managers and advocates from several areas of organised civil society.

Politically, this was a strategic moment, as in addition to sponsoring a rich debate among actors who did not typically communicate; symbolically, it enabled the governor to reaffirm his commitment to the public security issue. In fact, according to our interviews, one of the main criticism from sectors of organised civil society vis-à-vis PPV currently, is the fact that these listening and dialogue mechanisms, which were very much present in the governor’s first term in office, have been interrupted, at least in this format, in the second term.

Therefore, it is possible to state that Governor Eduardo Campos’ first term in office, from 2007 to 2010, was when the policy was consolidated and supplemented with an integrated management model. The second term, in turn, is mainly characterised by the institutionalisation of SEPLAG’s role in the coordination of the PPV. Indeed, as mentioned earlier, this process leads to very relevant changes in the way the state’s public security policy takes shape and is conducted.

Observable trends

This section of the paper will attempt to identify and evaluate PPV’s development and performance, based on perceptions from important actors in the policy’s building, implementation and monitoring process, at the government and civil society level. This exploratory analysis is based on twenty-five detailed interviews conducted with key actors in the second half of 2013. Therefore, some of the trends in PPV’s evaluation, identified by the interviewees are presented below.

Evaluation of PPV

In general terms, managers and members of civil society consider PPV to be a successful and pioneering initiative in the state of Pernambuco and in Brazil. Several interviewees pointed out that in fact, this is the first public security policy experiment in the state of Pernambuco. PPV is also distinguished by its institutional design: it consists of continuous, coordinated, cross-cutting, planned actions, monitored by the establishment of priorities, goals and management mechanisms.

It can be seen from the interview excerpts presented below that PPV’s success in relation to its established priority—reducing crime against life—is not questioned:

I evaluate it very positively. Because I evaluate the Pact in the context of the state of Pernambuco. So, I have been working with the issue of violence for several years and I followed the previous administration closely, when there was no security policy, right. Therefore, of course the Pact has to be evaluated in this context. Thus…it is a policy that is implemented in the state, where we had very high violence and crime rates, where there was no such government initiative, right. A comprehensive policy, with a clear concept and objective, there was nothing like this in the state before. So, I think that the Pact initiative on its own, it’s already positive, right. And the result…and the fact that…it was implemented…let’s say…sort of like it was plannedwellit remained in line, right? With the objectives that…were thought of back then…back at the beginning and having reached results which…well…in relation to…to…crime and violence, makes it a very positive policy…so I think that…the Pact for Life is very good, which does not mean it doesn’t have any problems (Civil Society).

Pernambuco never had a public security policy before. Actually, in Brazil it is difficult, with the exception of projects, not government programmes, it is difficult for us to hear of programmes aimed at reducing crime and social defence aimed work (Public Manager).

All interviewees acknowledged the programme’s success in relation to reducing ILVC rates in Pernambuco. In fact, civil society members, as well as public managers stated that the Pact for Life’s main achievement was reaching a 40 per cent decrease in the number of people murdered in the state between 2007 and 2013 (INFOPOL 2014). One said, ‘The reduction of violence and crime rates. That’s the programme’s strong point’ (Civil Society).

Even civil society sectors that question the priorities chosen by the programme admit that the reduction in homicide rates is the programme’s biggest achievement. One said:

I’m not going to question the figures, am I? It reduced the number of homicides in the state of Pernambuco, no question about that. Now…I don’t know if it means that all of society will be gaining from it (Civil Society).

PPV main strong points

Another interesting element to be analysed is the explanation provided by our interviewees in relation to factors that have enabled the building of a successful public security policy in Pernambuco. Interviewees were almost unanimous in acknowledging that the key moment in this process was the political will of the governor, who took the public security issue on, despite its being controversial, and a matter which has historically been avoided by heads of the executive branch. In the Pact for Life programme, the head of the executive branch started to control the state’s public security policy directly, taking up responsibility for the programme and personally demanding that managers be more effective in the actions conducted. Some interviewees said:

And I believe that the governor’s leadership is a key point. He took the issue of security up himself. He didn’t delegate it to anybody. He didn’t say: ‘This is not my problem! This is your problem.’ No! He said: ‘This is my problem’ (Public Manager).

It’s evident that the policy [for reducing violence and crime] would not have worked if the institutional security architecture had not been restructured, something that was done at the level of the government. Indeed, this restructuring would not have been done if there was no personal commitment on behalf of the governor, in other words, the famous so-called political will, right? (Civil Society).

The role played by the governor in the development of Pernambuco’s public security policy brings with it symbolic and practical implications. In symbolic terms, a commitment with management is verified, which becomes a government priority, reflecting on institutions and practices of public security actors. Therefore, the governor’s political will triggers a set of changes in the institutional arrangement that lead to PPV’s design and implementation processes. Therefore, the consequence of the governor’s political will, from which everything develops from an institutional perspective with regards to the Pact for Life programme, can be seen in the role played by the State Planning and Management Secretariat (SEPLAG).

Many interviewees point out SEPLAG’s performance as a critical factor to ensuring PPV’s success and sustainability throughout the years. SEPLAG is the core of Eduardo Campos’ administration, and acts as the secretariat in charge of coordinating and delivering priority projects and actions. Therefore, the Planning Secretariat has been involved since the start of PPV’s design, playing a major role in coordinating the policy, after the Management Committee was implemented, the programme’s monitoring level. Interviewees said:

I see PPV mainly as a big management programme, we’re the ones who thought that the police were the ones who understood security and several non-police people and entities got involved in the building of this programme. Transforming the police continues to be a critical part, but it became clear that the police didn’t have a method for acting in such a disrupted state, as was Pernambuco until 2006despite PPV being in the beginning, I think that it wasn’t designed for what it is today, it has evolved a lot. When we think back to 2007, PPV’s initial proposal, right, that document with 138 projects and that management was perhaps one of these projects, and it showed that management was 99 per cent of the Pact, to the point that PPV only started to have some results in November 2009, when the Management Committee started to meet (Public Manager).

The Pact for Life is a public policy from the government of the state of Pernambuco that has been developed since 2007, being continuously enhanced andwith the goal of preventing and reducing crime. Therefore, it’s a cross-cutting policy, a policy that involves several bodies coordinated by the executive branch, which is led by our state governor and in which several state secretariats act, coordinated by SEPLAG, executive, legislative, judiciary bodies, as well as the Prosecution Services and the Public Defender’s Office (Public Manager).

Sponsoring a security paradigm that breaks away from law and order conservative positions, as well as from the idea that security is a matter for the police, is another of PPV’s strong points. When it was designed, PPV engaged several actors of the executive, legislative and judiciary branches in dialogue, in addition to the Prosecution Services and the Public Defender’s Office, police forces and civil society. Indeed, this listening and participation stage is remembered as a very important moment for the building of the policy.

There are complaints related to the interruption of direct dialogue mechanisms with organised civil society. Several interviewees point this out as critical for the programme’s success, the radical and permanent liaison between the executive and judiciary branches, as well as the Public Prosecution Services. In the same way, the higher integration between the two police forces—civil and military—is pointed out by government and civil society agents, and particularly the police force itself, as essential for increasing the efficacy of their actions and consequently, reducing the number of homicides. Interviewees said:

Integration [of the police forces] is a strong point of the pact, right. This integration: joint work where everyone pitches in and reaches the goal, right. It’s the perfect diagnosis (Public Manager).

I think that the biggest advance was achieved in the police forces, amazingly enough. I think it advanced a lot because this is a very complicated structure (Civil Society).

The integration process of the police forces was extremely important for the implementation of PPV actions and for overcoming old obstacles that made procedure flow at the Criminal Justice System difficult. However, it is important to point out that this is a continuous process, which still has obstacles to conquer in terms of each body’s institutional culture. Despite engaging in dialogue and working together, there are disputes related to power, resources, and legitimacy, that persist. One interviewee said:

The integration of the police forces, right? Without one force wanting to do the other force’s job. This is very important. Integrating doesn’t mean mixing, doesn’t mean invading each other’s space.…And this model that requires joint work, this is a very strong point. So, integration, firstly of the police forces themselves and then, the integration of security and justice institutions as a whole: the Public Prosecution Services and the judiciary branch, the Public Defender’s Office and lastly, the penitentiary system (Public Manager).

Main criticism

Acknowledging PPV’s success does not make it immune to criticism. Indeed, we found more difference between the views of public managers and civil society members on this point. The view provided by the managers is more directed at identifying bottlenecks and points to be improved in the future, from the perspective of management strategies and mechanisms. However, civil society attention is aimed at more value-based issues and specifically, at the role it performs in the policy’s evolution and monitoring.

Therefore, the first criticism made recurrently by civil society actors is that the role of repression was favoured to the detriment of prevention in this public policy. These interviewees argue that the budget allocation for prevention activities is inadequate when compared to the funds earmarked for repressive actions.

In addition, civil society representatives allege that prevention activities are not carefully structured and monitored, as repression actions are. They state that at the level of prevention, the management model develops at a much slower pace and is not yet completely structured. Interviewees said:

You look for information about the Pact’s prevention actions and what you find are isolated actions, right?Prevention has to have the same type of concept that you need for repression, it needs to be integrated, needs to have a goal, you’re going to have to integrate it with another area of the policy, social assistance, education, health. How is it integrated? Where do you measure the result? You have to do the same thing for the prevention area that you do for the repression area (Civil Society).

You can attack violence much before it is originated. You can reduce the number of individuals motivated to engage in violence, for example, right? And that was not the government’s decision (Civil Society).

For many, the reason for this gap is the search for more immediate results, which would end up reinforcing a police-based concept of public security. According to this perception, PPV would be centred only on police activity, and would neglect the other faces of violence and crime, which have cultural and social characteristics. As a result, it would be reproducing—albeit in a more sophisticated and successful manner—the conservative model public security was striving to avoid. One interviewee said:

I think that the Pact for Life has the merit of being a public security programme in a state that historically speaking did not have this type of programme, but my view of the Pact is that it doesn’t bring anything new in relation to how we perceive violence, in the building of a different, more just society. It is a police based programme, like others implemented throughout the world, which tries to reduce homicide by monitoring closer to the state’s coercion apparatus (Civil Society).

On the other hand, government managers argue that prevention in public security is part of a wider reaching government project, and thus is not being neglected or compromised. Despite this, some managers acknowledge that prevention polices were developed at a slower pace than the qualified repression policies. However, these managers state that in the last few years, prevention has occupied a more prominent role. In the excerpt of an interview presented below, full-time education appears as a flagship of the violence prevention programme:

But prevention is something that I believe to be much stronger and that the governor said it a few times, no one really listened, that scientifically it’s proven when talking about security, right. There are two proven things that improve security. This is scientifically proven, conducting regression analysis: it’s about arresting, imprisonment and full-time education. Today, Pernambuco has the biggest full-time education programme in Brazil. Nobody talks about that. In fact, not even those involved with the Pact for Life talk about this, and they should. We’re talking about this because it’s in another pact, the Pact for Education, which we sell as if it were another programme. It’s actually a big educational social inclusion programme, also for reducing crime. Why? Because full-time and semi full-time schools are not just in the posh areas.…So, full-time education is the flagship of our prevention programme really (Public Manager).

Public managers and members of civil society have differing concerns in relation to the prison system. In the view of civil society actors, particularly human rights advocates, PPV sponsored mass imprisonment, with no concern for the quality of prisons and structure related aspects of the penitentiary system.

Within the government, the prison system is sometimes seen as a bottleneck that still provides a challenge to be faced in the next few years. However, in the view of the managers, forethought and planning were put into focusing imprisonment on murderers and repeat murderers. In fact, concern is directed precisely at the need to improve prisons’ physical structure and the management of the penitentiary system as a whole. Interviewees said:

A dichotomous country right, is a contradictory country, so you have a sophisticated political structure with an absent Rule of Law. So the government is concerned with improving the prison system, making the prison system work, because as it is today it’s working for organised crime, are relations that we see today (Civil Society).

I’ve no doubt that this is it, actually I think that it’s a criticism that I make of the state government Pact for Life programme. It has not led to any advances in the prison system, right, as in Pernambuco, inmates still lead drug traffic operations from inside the prison, also leading exterminations inside the prison. The prisons are overcrowded and this is something that has not been solved by the state government Pact for Life programme (Civil Society).

According to civil society, interrupting dialogue between government and society is one of the biggest weak points of the Pact for Life programme. Civil society played an active part, from the project’s design to its value-based dispute, giving PPV additional legitimacy. However, afterwards, civil society felt excluded from the process, with no direct mechanisms enabling it to take part in the project evaluation and monitoring.

The main example of this interruption in dialogue, provided by civil society interviewees, is the non-implementation of the State Public Security Council, which had been approved at the I State Public Security Conference—organised civil society’s last direct participation channel. Interviewees said:

They opted for a dialogue and participation model with civil society that excluded councils and conference processes.The Pact for Life programme anticipated the setting up of the State Public Security Council and staging of State Public Security Conferences every three years. This didn’t happen….The Pact changed a lot, that pact that was designed at the beginning is different today in terms of lines of action, the programme structure itself. It’s something else. Now, we don’t have information because we don’t have access, despite the government saying that the technical group meetings are open to anyone, but that’s not exactly how it works (Civil Society).

There isn’t a clear civil society participation mechanism in the technical groups. That’s exactly what we had established when we developed the pact, this mechanism would be the State Public Security Council. The council was not set up, there is a decree that we put together with the governor for the government to pass, ok? But he didn’t pass it and it died off. Do you understand? And we never discussed it anymore (Civil Society).

When asked about this issue, public managers deny the interruption of the dialogue. They state that the committee’s meetings are open, that top officials negotiate and sit with civil society whenever requested and that all planning for government actions has taken into consideration population demands, put forth by the Todos por Pernambuco (All for Pernambuco) seminars.

Main challenge

In conclusion, the governor’s political will is identified as one of PPV’s strong points. Paradoxically, however, in an election year it becomes one of the policy’s main frailties. In other words, interviewees worried about the programme being discontinued with the change in administration. It is a dilemma that places the Pact for Life on the boundary between a government policy and a state policy. Despite constant efforts to institutionalise the programme—see the role played by SEPLAG, establishing of police protocols, etc.—having the governor as PPV’s supporting pillar means a change in administration threatens the continuity of this security policy in the state of Pernambuco.

Several interviewees questioned whether institutional mechanisms able to ensure the policy’s continuity would be created by a government that does not see this as a priority, and does not have the commitment of the head of the executive branch to the issue of public security. Despite these concerns, some believe PPV has enough popularity among policy-makers and society in general that the programme will be kept in operation. Interviewees said:

We have to ensure that this programme, this brand, doesn’t become an Eduardo Campos brand, right? But a public policy programme of the state of Pernambuco. In other words, it should be kept in operation regardless of a change in administration, regardless who takes up office as the governor of the state of Pernambuco, when Eduardo Campos is no longer governor (Civil Society).

What we need is for the next elected governor to not dismantle this policy, which is a very consistent policy. So, we’re having elections for state governor and I hope that this policy is see as a state policy by all candidates running for election (Civil Society).

I think that the main challenge is to reach this sustainability, in other words, we’re going to have a new administration and that’s the great challenge, for the foundations of the Pact for Life to be taken into the next administration (Public Manager).

In sum, it is possible to see that the managers, as well as civil society assess PPV positively. They praise its pioneering quality by recognising it as the first public security policy of the state of Pernambuco, with a new view of public security, not reduced to simply the level of the police forces but incorporating other relevant actors into the process—the judicial branch, Prosecution Services, civil society, academics, managers, etc.—all coordinated by SEPLAG.

However, it is also important to notice that all its success was achieved because of the state governor’s political will. He took on the responsibility of dealing with public security, choosing it as a priority in both his terms in office. Unfortunately, at the end of his second term, this strong point seems to turn into a frailty. With elections drawing near and with the possibility of a change in administration, PPV’s continuity could be threatened.

Civil society is of the opinion that, if social control had been successful, the programme would be safer and would have effectively reached the level of a state policy, instead of a government policy. Some of the criticism directed at the programme is in line with this belief, and states that the programme needs to communicate better with the general population. In addition, the listening mechanisms need to be re-established through the public security conferences and the implementation of the State Public Security Council.


Silveira, Ratton, Monteiro and Menezes (2013) observe that if we look at internal dynamics of Brazilian regions, we will notice that in 2000, the Southeast pulled homicide rates up, with rates of 36.52 per 100,000 inhabitants, while the Brazilian rate stood at 26.71 per 100,000. In 1996, the Northeast region presented a lower rate than the national average, standing at 19.36 per 100,000 inhabitants. However, taking the last figures published by DATASUS (2013) into account, which include information on mortality between 1996 and 2011, it is possible to see that positions have been reversed: the Southeast rate dropped to 19.95, while in the Northeast it rose to 36.24.

As mentioned earlier, DATASUS data show that in the period between 2007 and 2013, the only state in the Federation that saw a consecutive drop in homicide rates was Pernambuco. Looking further, data from Pernambuco’s Secretariat for Social Defence (INFOPOL/SDS) shows a 39 per cent reduction in intentional violent crime rates in Pernambuco and 60 per cent in the city of Recife between January 2007 and December 2013 (SDS 2014). If INFOPOL/SDS data are used as a reference, homicide rates in Pernambuco and Recife are around 34 and 28 per 100,000 inhabitants, which is a significant reduction. In addition, this data can be used as a sound indicator for the period starting in 2007—the year the Pact of Life programme began—to show a continuous and consistent reduction in violent deaths in Pernambuco (INFOPOL 2014) (See Figure 1).

Figure 1 

Evolution of CVLI rate in Pernambuco – 2006 to 2013. Source: GACE/SDS and IBGE.

This paper attempts to identify and discuss some of the main changes and advances, which, according to the actors involved with PPV, may have produced the effects that led to the reduction of homicide rates in the state.

For the authors of this paper, some points should be stressed as critical for the building and implementation of Pernambuco’s public security policy, PPV-PE: a) the inclusion of the issue in the political agenda as a core element of the Eduardo Campos administration; b) the state governor’s leadership capacity in conducting the security policy (PPV-PE); c) institutional changes implemented at the strategic planning level; d) the building of a cross-cutting model and management level, integrated in several agencies of the state executive branch and the Criminal Justice System; e) the definition of clear priorities (at the value-based political level, as well as the practical, e.g. homicide as a focus of public policy); f) the use of good quality information for decision making and real-time problem solving; g) development of weekly institutional collaboration environment aimed at the territorial follow-up of violent crime rates, as well as police and non-police intervention protocols in each integrated security area; h) external and internal control mechanisms for police activities aimed at established priorities; i) incremental reform of police forces through a promotion system and encouraging the meeting of goals; j) active role played by the Social Defence Integrated Internal Affairs Office in punishing police officers involved in violent deaths; k) integrated police operations aimed at dismantling criminal networks that produce violent deaths (extermination groups, organised groups that control the wholesale and retail of illegal drugs); l) support from media outlets as soon as it is evident that PPV-PE is producing effects in areas most vulnerable to violence.

The objective success achieved by PPV-PE, as shown above, is recognised by international agencies like the UN ( 2013) and IDB (Blog do Jamildo 2014). However, this does not hide the fact that some challenges remain to be conquered in the next few years: a) reform of the prison system and socio-educational measures system; b) keeping innovation capacity at the police level; c) enhancing management mechanisms and incorporating them into the police; d) developing information systems; e) changing police training process; f) more effective participation on behalf of the Prosecutions Services and judiciary branch in PPV-PE’s implementation; g) developing violence and crime prevention strategies, in terms of primary prevention, as well as secondary and tertiary (see Ratton 2012) incorporation of municipalities to social prevention processes. It should be noted that some of these challenges are related and depend on possible changes at the federal level, or changes at the legislative level, which may ‘force’ municipalities and the federal government to take a more active part in building programmes aimed at reducing violence and crime.

In conclusion, we believe that top-down implementation strategies for public policies (Pressman and Wildavsky 1973) were critical in showing that the government’s intention to reduce homicides could produce effective results (O’Toole Jr. 1995) during the analysed period (2007–2014). The governor’s participation and involvement, as well as that of the administration’s central levels in building and implementing PPV, are responsible for its success, but also challenge the policy’s continuity and sustainability. This type of approach was prevalent in Eduardo Campos’ first term in office (2007–2010), and ensured the emergence of new organisational formats in the second term (2011–2014). The second term is characterised by the emergence, seen in the first term, of ‘substantial intervention dimensions…more adaptive implementation strategy, seeing negotiation, the building of agreements, adaptation and learning as core instruments to preserve the spirit of the intervention, even if deadlines, goals and the planning itself are reviewed’ (Berkman 1980; Costa and Bronzo 2012).

These are some of the essential conditions for ensuring the continuity of the virtuous cycle of innovations that produced important results in the last eight years in public security in Pernambuco. But, the balance between keeping the leadership capacity located at the state executive branch, and developing permanent institutionalisation mechanisms, as well as adapting to intermediary implementation levels of the programme, will be key elements for public security policies in the state in the next few years.