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Friday, 8 March, 2002, 21:56 GMT
Brazil closes cashpoints to stem crime
Sao Paulo
Kidnappings are common in Brazil's cities
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By Tom Gibb
BBC Brazil correspondent

Brazilian banks have decided to keep their cashpoint machines closed for eight hours each night.

The measure was initially introduced to save electricity in an energy crisis, but police say the measure has reduced the number of robberies and kidnaps.

The high levels of crime in Brazil are at the top of the political agenda.

Keeping the cashpoints closed overnight is designed to stop a particular type of crime, known as lightning kidnaps.

Cash restrictions

Already cashpoints are restricted from giving out much more than the equivalent of $250 in any one day, so as to make robberies less lucrative.

So it became popular for gangs to kidnap someone late at night and force them to go to the cashpoint at midnight.

That way they could steal the limit for two days instead of one.

For the last year, however, cash points have been closed in Brazil overnight as a way of saving electricity during a severe energy crisis.

Temporary measure

Banks have also been opening for shorter hours, but the electricity rationing has now ended and so the banks are due to operate as normal from Monday.

However, the police say that a side-effect of closing the cashpoints overnight has been to stop the lightning kidnaps.

So the Justice Minister wants the cashpoints, many of which have big signs saying 24-hours over them, permanently closed at night.

The Bank Federation has reluctantly agreed, but only as a temporary measure whilst crime statistics are gathered.

The Federation's chairman said the normal working of the economy should not be restricted by public security issues.

See also:

27 Nov 01 | Business
Businesses face kidnap threat
01 Feb 02 | Sci/Tech
Keeping tabs on kidnap victims
27 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Brazil
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