Reporters on the Job

Mugged on a Brazilian Beach: Brazil's antipoverty programs for 50 million people is one of the largest and most successful in the world. But income equality remains one of the drivers behind notoriously high rates of crime (see story).

When staff writer Sara Miller Llana talks to Brazilians, safety ranks high on their lists of concerns. "It's something I hear all over Latin America, and I live in Mexico City, which doesn't exactly have a stellar reputation. So, I'm used to taking precautions, like calling authorized taxis and not leaving the house with valuables," she says.

But one afternoon in Recife - which has one of the country's worst crime rates - Sara stopped at the bank. It was 2 p.m., in one of the "best" parts of town.

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"Afterward, I couldn't resist sitting next to the beach for a few minutes. I was in a secluded stretch of sand, just seeking a bit of down time, which was where I made a mistake," she says.

"Two teenage boys, about 14-years-old, came up to me with a gun and took everything I had except a book! They were so young, my first instinct was that it was a water gun. Then, memories of the book 'City of God' [a 1997 novel about gangs in Brazil's slums] flashed in my head and I gave up my purse. I had everything on me, except my passport," she says.

Fortunately, that day Sara started working with a Brazilian freelance photographer. It was a Friday. She had interviews set up and flights booked for the weekend, but no money. "It could have been a real problem waiting until Monday to get money wired. But my photographer was incredibly generous, paying for everything on our road trip that weekend and giving me $1,000 in cash to get me through the rest of my trip. He didn't even think twice about it.

"I can now say that I truly understand when people tell me that security is their greatest concern," she says.

David Clark Scott

World editor

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