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SAO PAULO – The number of homicides in Brazil dipped slightly last year, according to a report Friday from an anti-violence watchdog group.
The Brazilian Forum on Public Security said in its 10th annual report that 58,383 people were slain in Brazil in 2015, down 1.2 percent from the year before.
The total was roughly equal to the at least 55,000 people estimated by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as being killed in that war-torn Middle Eastern country in 2015. Brazil, however, has about nine times the population of Syria.
The report says the number of people killed by Brazilian police rose 6.3 percent to 3,345 — about nine a day — while the number of police officers slain dropped to 393 from 409.
The group's executive director, Samira Bueno, told the newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo that the rise in the number of people killed by police "shows us that the Brazilian government encourages the excessive use of lethal force."
"Police kill a lot, as if they have been given the right to decide who dies and who lives," she said.
The Justice Ministry did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
The states of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro accounted for almost half of the number of people killed by police across Brazil.
Less than a month ago, Rio de Janeiro security chief Jose Mariano Beltrame resigned amid a spike in violence that has seen police clashing with drug traffickers in the city's shantytowns and stray bullets often killing and wounding bystanders.
Bruna Lace de Freitas, a 21-year-old woman, was inside her house in Rio with her baby when she was killed by a stray bullet Wednesday night. She was buried Friday.
"When will all this end?" Freitas' uncle Carlos Henrique de Oliveira said at the funeral. "Today it was her, tomorrow it could be my son or yours. All there is are stray bullets."
Associated Press videographer Yesica Fisch in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.