The circular layout of the trucks in a courtyard next to a filling station in Juatuba, in Greater Belo Horizonte, recalls the old caravan formations that were thus positioned to gain greater protection against Indians and bandits. And it is exactly to obtain more security that Brazilian truckers now seek to stand thus in a united and alert way when passing through Minas Gerais, since thefts and thefts of cargo shot up in the state, even with the pandemic and the social isolation.
This is the theme of the second report in the series that the State of Minas has published since yesterday to show the risks and vulnerability of transport professionals in Brazil in these harsh times of the new coronavirus. They face the unknown every day as they cross the country taking people and goods that cannot be left out. The essential work of these men and women imposes contact with the danger of being infected and leading to the possibility of transmission. The EM tells their afflictions and stories and how they are living with this new challenge.
According to data on crimes monitored by the Minas Gerais State Department of Justice and Public Security (Sejusp), the number of cargo thefts in the months affected by the epidemic – April and May – rose from 64 to 72, an increase of 12, 5% in the state; and from 19 to 25, representing an increase of 31.5% in Grande BH. Thefts, which are the form of subtraction of goods without the use of threats or violence, also advanced a lot, going from 52 to 61, an increase of 17.3% in the average of records in Minas; and from 18 to 21, an increase of 16.6% in Grande BH, even with the pandemic.
Truckers Wederson Ferreira and Rodrigo Campos have already faced a panic situation without police support
Early in the morning, the truck drivers in the yard in Juatuba find out if criminal actions occurred while sleeping in their vehicles, as inns and hotels are closed due to social isolation to contain COVID-19. The news the morning the EM report arrived at the scene was a theft. The bandits acted at dawn.
They sneaked around the truck circles until they found one that was farther and more vulnerable. Without leaving any clues or fanfare, they managed to remove and take the battery from the truck, an essential item of the vehicle that represented a loss of more than R $ 600 for the truck driver, who was obliged to buy new equipment to move on.
If there are dangers even at night in well-known places where truckers seek safety in large concentrations of cargo vehicles, in the middle of the road the feeling they describe is abandonment and fear. “The other day, a colleague was on the road and the bandits came through the window and surrendered him with a revolver in broad daylight. As if they were walking. Only they saw that the truck was empty. They slapped him and took his goods, cell phone, wallet ”, says truck driver Wederson Ferreira Saraiva, 42 years old.
According to him, even those who travel the usual route end up being robbed several times by the same assailants. “The worst thing is that people who run in the same places and, therefore, there is this fear of being robbed. This agony is not good. I’ve been robbed more than once on the same stretch in the Triangle, so I don’t stop there at night or with the road too empty, ”he says.
The truck driver from Pernambuco, Rodrigo Campos Dias, 36, says he even knows the signs used by the gang at the time of the attempted robbery and, with this bitter experience, he manages to avoid many of the actions that can end in violence and damage. “When the same car overtakes you twice, you know it could be someone chasing you. The car passes you once. Then disappear on the road. When the second time passes, then you are already in that panic. He keeps looking at the mirror all the time to see if they are going to try anything. That stays with you for the rest of the trip. Stiff neck, back pain. This is the price of not having security ”, he highlights.
The police, according to Rodrigo and Wederson, know the most dangerous places, but often fail to reinforce their presence and investigate routine situations. “We were already being robbed at the side of the road, surrounded by the bandits and the police passed right by us, they didn’t even stop to ask if anything was happening, or to ask for documents. They thought it was a break and left without checking, ”complains Wederson.
Alone Insecurity is only one of the aspects that most concern truck drivers, but it is not all, according to the 43-year-old driver born in Pelotas (RS) Cristiano Andrade Cruz Oliveira. “Governments and authorities are only concerned with the pandemic and have forgotten the rest. They forgot about security and the support structure. And the truck driver cannot stop, because otherwise the whole of Brazil stops too. This is the big dilemma ”, says the truck driver who transports food to beer.
“It was necessary to give more value to the truck driver. We have patios without bathrooms, we don’t have these support points in the middle of the road. We are facing the transport of food and goods practically alone for those who are isolated in the cities. We stop at gas stations and many no longer have food, or charge abusively. They do not have bathrooms and, if what is open is not well received, they think that as we pass in several places we can also transmit the disease ”, reports Cristiano.
Flawed patrol encourages bad guys
The abandonment and insecurity that truck drivers describe while working on highways in Minas Gerais are also observed in other parts of the country in an even more serious way. Ronaldo Batista, 56, already has 39 years of service in the drive of a truck crossing Brazil. Its last destination is the municipality of Balsas, in Maranhão, since the harvest began 4 months ago to Cabedelo, in Paraíba, Cabo de Santo Agostinho, in Pernambuco, and São Luís.
“The problem is that you stop at the gas station and a guy comes after you with a revolver, takes you to a dirt road and takes the cargo and the truck away,” he says. According to him, in the North and Northeast regions, when the truck and the cargo cannot be taken, the bandits began to pluck the vehicles. “It is happening too much. They come armed, stop the truck, come with a tire repairman and take the tires out of the truck to sell. They just leave the wheels on the asphalt ”, says Ronaldo.
In Minas Gerais, according to the truck driver, the most unsafe places are in the North region, close to the municipalities of Montes Claros, and in the stretch between Taiobeiras and Bahia. “In this region, trucks and cargo are stolen every day. One behind the other. There’s too much, ”he says.
For Ronaldo, patrolling intensifies. “There is a vehicle at the police stations that is called a patrol, which is used to patrol the sections. But you can spend the whole day on the road that you will never see pass by. I had a punctured front tire there, I lost a lot of time to fix it and I didn’t see the one from the (vehicle) round. You arrive later and ask at the post where the round is and they say you are attending the incident, but no one ever sees it. If it happened at night, it would help us a lot. Just coming with the giroflex lights on would help a lot ”, he argues. (MP)
Specialist defends new police action
If, on the one hand, the flow of cars has intensely decreased on the highways with the actions of social isolation, on the other, the need for cargo flow has been increased in some sectors of the economy, as noted by the State Intelligence and Public Security specialist, Colonel Carlos Júnior. “Even in the pandemic, transportation has increased in the health and subsistence segments. That is, the truck drivers did not stay at home. The strategies of police organizations and the private sector itself, therefore, need to be adapted to this situation in which criminals take advantage of the movement of cargo and the extensive road network. The duration of the pandemic will require a complete overhaul of criminal prevention strategies ”.
According to the expert, it is necessary to maintain ostensive policing actions on targets most coveted by thieves. “This is how it was done by the Minas Segura Program (from PMMG), which justifies the importance of preventive activity on roads, in warehouses and product storage areas. In the current economic context of a pandemic, with a sharp drop in tax revenues, these operations and ostensible actions on highways and industrial and agricultural areas have also contributed, in the tax area, to reduce tax evasion ”, he highlights. Colonel Carlos Júnior recalls that tax crimes also take advantage of the epidemic.
Despite the negative figures on road safety, the colonel points out that ostentatious highway policing in Minas has a successful track record that differs from the reality of cargo thefts across the country, especially on the borders with Rio de Janeiro, Bahia and Holy Spirit. “We have the largest road network in the country and some bottlenecks. Thefts occur a lot on federal highways and on highway rings, when truck drivers bring cargo to metropolitan regions. The work is always dynamic and adjusted to reality. But, for example, here there are no illegal tolls like in other states, where drivers end up being extorted. The most important asset to be protected is the life of truck drivers ”, he stresses.
The report sought the press office of the State Secretariat for Justice and Public Security (Sejusp), which redirected the matter to the Military Police. The corporation did not comment on the comparison of cargo thefts and thefts made exclusively during pandemic dates, from April to May, preferring to concentrate on the period from January to May, when there was a 10% drop in cargo theft.
“The commitment of the military officers of the Highway Policing Command (CPRV) and the operations contained in the Highway Ring and state and federal highways delegated under the responsibility of CPRV, especially in this pandemic period, as well as a careful analysis of statistical data with direction of actions / operations to the locations indicated by the numbers, culminated, in this year 2020, in the arrest of 270 people with open warrants, in the record of 245 occurrences for drug trafficking and in the seizure of 407 firearms. In addition, 329 vehicles were recovered by CPRV during the preventive actions carried out on the state and federal delegated highways ”, informed the corporation. (MP)
Risk at the wheel
The series of EM reports on the challenges that pandenia brought to the transporters showed yesterday, with the articles “The risk by the rear view mirror” and “Drivers are separated from other workers”, the difficulties in collecting and delivering fruits produced in the North of Minas Gerais, which mainly supplies Belo Horizonte, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The danger of contagion and spread of the virus aggravates the condition of truck drivers and leads to often dramatic reports of professionals kept at a distance from other workers in the producing regions for prevention. They are also experiencing cases of prejudice at road stopping points.