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February 18, 2009



Calling the police in Rio de Janeiro is useless. To turn music down? They will probably laugh in your face and then try to shake you down for disturbing THEM...Remember the scene in City of God where the kid is chasing the chicken down the street and lands in the middle of a confrontation between the police and the trafficantes? The police in Rio are corrupt,period. Most Brazilians avoid them like the plague. They definitely are not the NYPD, there to serve and protect.


well i must say that is not the truth... im brazillian, i live in Sao paulo... not that dif btw Rio (about violence, but Sao paulo is 10x biggerr) and here we call the police YES and they come.. sometimes less than 6minutes... it can be any party or situation, like an alarm at night.. and we have rules (law).. after 10pm its prohibided to make noise... offcourse if u live in a favela they wont come lol *thats the only possibility. Thks.. Richards.

Ray Adkins


We lived in Tampa two years ago and the police in Tampa never came to noise disturbances, there were constant parties all night long and they didn't want to bother the possible tourists that brought so much money into the region.
We ended up moving to another neighborhood 10 miles north of Tampa to a gated community with strict rules to have some peace of mind and sleep at night.
Same thing in Miami, you could call the cops all you wanted they wouldn't come for complaints such as noise or barking dogs, they had way to many emergencies to bother with this kind of calls.
We do live in Rhode Island now which is a completely different world, we recently call the cops to report an attempt phone scammer calling our home phone and the police department sent a cop to our house, he checked our caller ID and started an investigation and found out the scammer was hitting people all over the Northeast...


Several months ago I learned that there is a noise ordinance in Belo Horizonte. I was quite surprised, especially given that it was campaign season and vehicles were constantly driving up and down our street constantly blasting music and messages at deafening decibels. I've never tried to call the police to report a noise issue - though I've considered it many times - but I'm guessing it wouldn't be an overly sucessful venture here either. . .


The police here in Rio is a constant headache when it comes to... well, everything. I'm not sure I would say it's a problem in all of Brazil, though, because Rio often is a very special, chaotic case when it comes to several things.

Having lived in São Paulo for a couple of years and still going there every fortnight, it surprises me sometimes just how different things are in both cities. When it comes to the police force, they are a little better, and they do show up. Lord knows even I have been told off by them because of the noise while I was there.

I have seen one occasion when the police showed up because of the noise, so I guess there are precedents here in Rio, even though they are probably rare. I suppose it's not a great opportunity to make some bribe money, so why bother, eh?


The noise ordinances exist, but almost no one enforces them. Usually I try to directly ask the offending party to turn down the noise. That has actually worked for me on occasion...when I lived in the favela, it was said the traffickers enforced the noise ordinance (except for their own funk parties of course).


That's the difference between a first world country and a third world country! It's sad but unfortunately true!


Hi Rachel,

I live in Campinas (100km from São Paulo)and I suffer from the same problem. There is a "republica" (kind of a fraternity house) next to my house. They are very loud,always screaming and hearing loud music at any time, and throw even louder parties. We have tried to call the cops many times. They always come, but generally after an hour, maybe two. And when they come they say they can only ASK my neighbors to be quiet, but if they do not, they can not force them, because this would be "abuse of power", and that they could even be sued for that.
So, I get your frustation and anger. I wish things were different around here.

ps: I really enjoy your blog, and how you point out the differences between Brazil and the States. Muito bom, continue assim! =)



i imagine how awful it was :( and i´m sorry they didn´t come...
i respect Eli´s point of view but...i still believe that we must call the police. ok, they didn´t come this time...but, what if your neighbors also called the police? it would be 2 or 3 phone calls...
i live in copacabana ( a "noisy" place at night, in the morning...anytime :) ). last year my dad had to call the police, ´cause there was a party next to us, really, really loud..it wasn´t in our building. the police did come...and the sound of music was acceptable for both - well kind of...my dad went to sleep "happy", the people in the party well...continued to party ( i believe not so “happy” ).... i also agree with Corinne: we can always directly ask the offending party...ok, ok, they can "laugh" but...who cares? we did our best...or, at least, we tried...
it´s important to change this way of thinking: “this is NOT gonna work...

love your posts Rachel! I love the way you observe the things around you...and...you have a great sense of humor !

see yah!

alex castro

I think wanting to call the police because of a loud party was the gringoest thing you've ever done while in Rio! ;) (that and missing Starbucks, of course!) I agree with Eli, they simply wouldn't have come, but if I were him, I'd have told you to call anyway, just so you could see what would happen for yourself... ;)


I was talking to my student here in Salvador who is from Sao Paulo. He said that in SP the cops will take action on noise complaints. Unfortunately here in Salvador it's the same situation you are facing there. Here the cops don't really do anything except stand around and try to look tough. It's pretty frustrating.

Luiz Felipe

I've actually had cops show up on my door here in Rio on three separate birthday parties saying that they had received complaints about noise. Each time they either explicitly asked for bribes (R$20,00) or implied that they were still "making up their minds" on how loud the party actually was, lingering at the door, begging to be helped along on their thought process...

Obviously, I proceeded to apologising and turning down the volume, but I'm not sure most cariocas would do the same.

So they do show up sometimes. Just don't expect them to be honest when they do.


I've never been to Rio, but I guess I can speak from my experience in Lima.
We don't call the police for that kind of claims. We have a kind of municipal police, Serenazgo. And it works: they arrive within minutes and things will go just as happened in Boston.
I know how does it feel to have loud noises very close to you: I have some neighbors...


DAAAAAAAAAAANG! Yea, there are different takes and stuff works differently here and there. I agree with Alex Castro that calling the police to enforce noise ordinances is as gringo as it can get, especially in Rio. Rio where they have sambao, pagode and serestas in every corner, it's just plain loud. Meanwhile, the favelas are exchanging fire power...Hmmm... What to do, what to do...


A problem with loud music in Rio on a Saturday night as the city enters Carnaval?

You must be a lot older than you say,,,,or you are in the wrong city.

meant in a nice way,,,


I live above a bar in a bairro popular. That means parties, loud music, and drunk people screaming "PORRA"!!!!! until three or four in the morning. Living in Salvador, I've become resigned to the fact that Brazil = Sound Pollution. There's just no way getting around it.

My solution to the problem: ear plugs and a shot of allergy medicine. Turn up the fan, play some gregorian chant. Works wonders I assure you.

Alexandre Macedo - Eng. de Dentro RJ

I Rio, I live in Rio
Respect the opinions of all but I can say that in 3 times that experienced this problem was promptly answered. Besides the good sense, there are laws that guarantee the right to silence after a certain time. This is what I mentioned, getting a prompt answer from the police, which was efficient in its actions. (by google translator).

Eduardo Sant'Anna

I don't think it's a police issue only. It's cultural too.

Here in the UK when I learned that a huge percentage of crimes were "anti-social behaviour" it was an odd concept to me. "Small" things that are common noone cares in Rio are considered important crimes here.

Cases such as the one you described ("blasting music from large speakers on the back of a car") occur VERY, VERY often in Rio. Maybe not in the are you live, but it's common in the North of the city.

People don't call the police not just because "they won't come" but mostly because they will think "it's nothing". Over here I believe it would be considered as an anti-social behaviour (and therefore a CRIME) if kids do it at anytime (even at 1PM on Saturday or whatever) .

The same with neighbours screaming "gooooaaaaaallll" or celebrating their team's victory after 11PM, the loud "Furacão 2000" funk that happens every friday until 4AM in a favela (but can be heard in a radius of 3+Km), the guy urinating on the wall, "camelôs" everywhere, parking on the sidewalk, "flanelinhas", etc, etc... all so common in Rio that most people don't even realize it is crime anymore. :-S


PS: But yes... I've seen the police in Rio work in "loud music" issues quite a lot. I do complain but have to defend them in this case.


barulho aqui, so do ronco do marido.

Ray Adkins


I think you won't find a code or city ordinance for that one!!!
Ear plugs and a tylenol PM should help...


Brazil is a noisy place. I agree with Ed's response. It seems crazy that you would even think of calling the police (I understand how frustrating it is but you are in Brazil).

Rio Gringa

Middle and upper class neighborhoods aren't noisy at night like other parts of the city. There are also noise laws that go into effect at 10pm. Had this happened somewhere in Leblon, I think there would have been a higher likelihood of a cop actually showing up. Haven't you ever heard of NIMBY?

Ray Adkins


You made a great point!
Upper class neighborhoods definitely get more our of their tax dollars or Reais...either in Brazil or in the US...

Thiago Elias

well, here (Praia Grande - Sao Paulo) things are a little bit different.
We don't call the police in fact, but the "Guarda Municipal", that always come 10 or 15 minutes later..

I don't know if Municipal Guards can arrest people here, but they resolve the problem.


Whoa whoa whoa. Let's be honest here. Carnaval has begun in Rio. I'm assuming you live in Zona Sul. People aren't heading home after the blocos, girl. If anything, they're just startin the night off.

There's something humorous/frightening about a gringo calling the cops because a group of Brazilians are partying too much during their biggest holiday. I guess that's the way the green goes.

Boas festas!

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