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In today’s world, it would be nearly impossible to get away with that many murders and not be apprehended. According to Owlcation, local cops at the time believed all of the deaths off of the aqueduct to be copycat suicides. Because of this, they closed access to the area temporarily, which did stop the deaths for a while.
What looks like ineptitude by the police may have actually had more to do with the time period in which Alves was committing his murders. Less than two decades had passed since the Liberal Revolution of 1820, which threw the country into both economic and political turmoil. During this ensuing chaos, it is possible that the police just assumed that the deaths were suicides of those in the lower social classes. The poor and others of lesser status were taking a beating financially and struggling just to eat, so this assessment may not have been too far-fetched.