Enforcing enforcement in sufficient quantity and quality to discourage criminal actions is what controls the “crime industry” and protects society. The answer to the attractiveness of the high profitability of the illicit markets is to associate costs with criminal activity, especially activities that reduce criminal costs and enable scale – the illicit logistic chain – and those that enable the use of illicit money in the legal market to the refinancing of illicit markets – the illicit financial market.

“Avoid the force, attack the weakness”, taught the Chinese general Sun Tzu. Production and retail activities are the most stable chains in most illicit markets, require some level of territorial dominance, a network with corrupt elements and are mainly “easy to replace” for gangs. However, the logistical and financial chains are, at the same time, the most strategic (the most important nodes in the networks) and the most fragile, because there is low control over them and little availability of specialized labor.

After three decades of “pro-criminal” policies, recovery of criminal justice and public security system demands structural and incremental schedules.

How to deal with that? With the use of deterrence and disqualification capable of demotivating experienced criminals to join criminal gangs and networks that operate illicit markets, that is, associating a high cost to crime. This must occur effectively, that is, legal, continuous and proportional: the more profitable and violent the crime, the greater the risk of imprisonment and the time / level of isolation in prison.

Dissuading and incapacitating means performing sequential activities, with considerable frequency, such as seizing illicit products, especially the most dangerous ones, and money earned from crime; investigating and arresting criminals, especially the violent and illicit market operators; processing and judging them quickly; keep them imprisoned in isolation from their cronies and in adequate sanitary conditions; prevent them from enjoying the money earned in crime, especially the most sophisticated ones.

These are elementary activities for any criminal justice and public security system. However, the current Brazilian regulatory framework makes it difficult and even prevents the necessary actions to contain and balance the attractiveness of the easy and high profit of the illicit economy. In these conditions, we have the “perfect storm”: incentive to crime, frustration and discouragement from law enforcement officers, and, above all, unprotected society and neglected victims. Without correcting this structural anomaly and recovering the enforcement capacity of public security and the Brazilian judicial system, updating them to the challenges of 21st century crime with its illicit transnational markets, we will continue to be unable to control crime and the illicit economy, and our better agents will continue to complain that they are “wiping ice with the tap running”.

After three decades of pro-crime criminal policy, the recovery of the criminal justice and public security system requires agendas for structural and incremental solutions.

  • Structural solutions: updating the Brazilian criminal law framework – matching the level of the structure of enforcement and cost of crime in Brazil to that of the main developed democracies and the main nations in the region is the objective of this agenda. In consolidated democracies, the criminal justice and public security system must be able to promote deterrence and disqualification while guaranteeing three principles: the State’s duty to protect society; right to justice for victims whose protection has been violated; ensure due process of law for criminals. Despite being simultaneous, they are hierarchical: the right to protection of society and the justice of the victims must prevail.
  • Incremental solutions: new security governance – the correction of structural anomalies in the legal regulatory framework will allow the expansion and institutionalization of management models between agencies that result in a significant increase in police productivity. Some that have already been implemented in the country in recent years and have resulted in actions to recover the deterrence capacity are the product of courageous initiatives by leaders within control institutions, such as task forces at the borders and continuous control at foreign exchange junctions, logistics warehouses and metropolitan centers; apprehension and arrest operations in retail centers for illicit products (drugs or contraband); actions against logistical and financial operators, which took place within the operations of the Special Action Groups to Combat Organized Crime (State Public Ministry, with the Military and Civil Police) and the Car Wash (Judiciary, Public Ministry, Police and Federal Revenue, mainly ).

Policies and programs to recover the disabling effect of prison will gain strength when they are institutionalized and complemented with policies such as the expansion of the Differentiated Disciplinary Regime (RDD); of collegiate decisions (courts), of maintaining in a closed regime of criminals arrested in these operations; expansion of the maximum security prison system.

In addition to structuring the production of deterrence and disability, the new regulatory framework should encourage efficiency in controlling crime, assisting victims and resolving problems arising, transforming these points into objective criteria of meritocracy and career progression within institutions, in order to legally and institutionally connect the objectives of the public service and the expectations of society.

Structural and incremental agendas are codependent and require adequate diagnostics to achieve their goals. The diagnosis of victimization groups allows to know where there is low criminal risk and to evaluate the efficiency of control policies. Knowledge about the logic of the illicit economy and the operation of illicit chains allows agencies and society to improve deterrence and disqualification mechanisms to control more profitable and violent illicit markets and gain efficiency by focusing on strategic illicit chains that connect illicit markets between themselves and illicit service networks (security, information and communication) based on corruption and money laundering. Providing this data, information and knowledge is the main purpose of the creation and maintenance of the Census of Illicit Markets by JHM Research, with support from the PMI IMPACT program to combat global illicit trade.

This moment requires unity between the public and private sectors, mainly in the definition and maintenance of a normative framework that protects people, companies and public goods (structural agenda). This unity is also required in the management of information with complementation of data from the private sector on criminal activity and in the use of the logistical and commercial structure, as well as the co-management of the storage, custody and destination of illicit products that increase the efficiency of the criminal justice and public security system (incremental agenda).

The reversal of the current framework of the criminal justice and public security system is imperative for the survival of Brazilian democracy, and the restructuring of the cost of crime should be given priority in the discussion agendas on public security policies. The democratic rule of law needs to regain efficiency in protecting society and providing justice to victims, to guarantee adherence and prevent illegal solutions, motivated by fear and risk, from taking their place, deepening the problem and destabilizing the country. There is no democracy without enforcement.