Can Data Help Brazil Take a Bite Out of Crime?

Joe Leahy at ZY See Beyond: “When Argentine entrepreneur Federico Vega two years ago launched a startup offering Uberlike services for Brazil’s freight industry, the sector was on the cusp of a wave of cargo theft.

Across Brazil, but especially in Rio de Janeiro, crime has soared, with armed gangs robbing one truck every 50 minutes in Rio last year.

But while the authorities have reacted with force to the crime wave, Vega turned to software engineers at his CargoX startup. By studying a range of industry and security data, CargoX developed software that identifies risks and helps drivers avoid crime hot spots, or if a robbery does happen, alerts the company in real time.CargoX says that in Brazil, 0.1 percent by value of all cargo transported by trucks is stolen. “We are about 50 percent lower than that, but we still have tons of work to do,” says São Paulo–based Vega.

CargoX is one of a growing number of Brazilian technology startups that are seeking digital solutions to the problem of endemic crime in Latin America’s largest country.

Having started from zero two years ago, CargoX today has signed up more than 5,000 truckers. The company scans data from all sources to screen its motorists and study past crimes to see what routes, times, neighborhoods and types of cargo represent the highest risk.

Certain gas stations that might, for instance, be known for prostitution are avoided because of their criminal associations. Daytime delivery is better than night. Drivers are tracked by GPS and must stay inside “geofences” — known safe routes. Foraying outside these alerts the system.

Vega says the key is to learn from the data. “Everyone says it’s good to learn from your mistakes, but it’s even better to learn from other people’s mistakes.”

The use of big data to anticipate crime is at the center of the approach of another tech-savvy entrepreneur, Pedro Moura Costa, the founder of BVRio Institute, an organization that seeks market solutions to environmental issues.

Organized crime is targeting everything from highway robbery to the illegal plunder of tropical hardwoods in the Amazon while online crime such as credit card fraud is also rampant, analysts say….(More)”.