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Brazil's Rio Grande do Sul state to invest in youth crime prevention program

The Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul will seek to reduce violent crime (homicide and robbery) through a new integrated prevention program targeting at-risk youths aged 15 to 24. The project will be financed in part by a loan of $50 million from the Inter-American Development Bank.

Crime rates have risen in recent years in Rio Grande do Sul, with nearly 7 in 10 residents saying they fear being murdered.

The program will focus on cities with the highest proportions of youths considered to be at risk of engaging in violence: Alvorada, Porto Alegre and Viamão. In those cities, the rates of school dropouts and students having to repeat grades are above state and national averages, hindering young people's ability to get jobs.

The program aims to create opportunities and protect the rights of these youths, which account for the largest number of crime victims.

Another problem is that the military and civil police lack information that would help them prevent crime effectively. So the project will help upgrade police information technology in an effort to improve police files and promote training in the gathering and analysis of crime-related data.

One innovative feature of the project is to encourage a greater state presence in Brazilian society, calling for action at the different levels of government, the private sector and civil society. This will be done by addressing the problem in a holistic way and focusing investment on geographic areas with the highest crime rates (3 of the state's 496 municipalities).

The plan will aim to reduce young people's exposure to circumstances and behaviors that put them at risk, and generate opportunities for them to use their time productively. This includes the building of six youth centers for young people who are socio-economically vulnerable. The program will also train police in conflict-resolution and encourage community-based policing. Training of police investigators will also be strengthened.

Over the next four years, the goal is to help 32,000 young people avoid dropping out of school and aid 51,000 in finding their first job.

The loan is over 25 years and has an interest rate pegged to the Libor. Brazilian authorities will contribute $6 million.

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