Rio de Janeiro faces an ongoing security crisis as violence escalates

Rio de Janeiro faces an ongoing security crisis as violence escalates

Police practices are a factor in Rio’s vicious cycle of violence
Brazil Culture

Rio de Janeiro’s security has been worsening since the October 2016, after the Olympic and Paralympic Games finished. In the first five months of 2017, there were 2,329 murders in Rio state. This is an 11 percent increase from the same period in 2016, averaging at 15 murders per day.

Escalating violence is becoming an everyday concern for cariocas. In a recent survey, 37.7 percent of Rio state residents called security their biggest concern. The same survey found that health is the second highest ranking concern, cited by 21 percent.

Last week, NGO Justiça Global officially appealed to the UN for help to combat Rio’s violence. In particular, the NGO highlighted that children and adolescents are the most frequent victims of violence. The death of 13 year-old Maria Eduardo, killed by a stray bullet during a physical education lesson at school, is one such example.

The number of armed street robberies has also increased, reaching 11,300 in May 2017 alone. Meanwhile, fears over goods transportation have led cargo drivers to threaten to stop transport in and out of Rio.

Rio’s municipal and state government have said they are working together to fight the problems. This Wednesday, Rio’s mayor Marcello Crivella and state deputy Francisco Dornelles met, promising to work together to combat violence.

In the meantime, the federal government has sent 620 men from the National Security Force to Rio state. They also sent an additional 380 federal highway patrol officers. The additional forces are responsible for combating cargo theft, and stemming the entry of weapons and ammunition via the state’s highways.

Ongoing corruption

Police carried out one of their largest ever anti-corruption operations last month in Rio, with warrants for the arrests of 96 Military Police (PMs). The investigation points to evidence that police from the 7th MP battalion received upwards of 1 million BRL per month in corruption schemes.

However, a spate of suspicious killings followed in the days after the operation, implying ongoing criminal presence. Recent reports indicate that the corruption has not yet ceased, including a video that surfaced on social media this Wednesday.

The video shows an extortion attempt where Marcos Vinicio Amaral de Oliveira is inside a car that stopped by police and threatened. Oliveira is known as drug trafficker Feijão do Anaia. Investigators suspect he was invloved in killing PM Thiago Marzula de Abreu, 30, in the Favela do Dita, in São Gonçalo, on Monday.

A uniformed PM can be seen standing nearby. Local homicide police in Niterói suspect that a police officer may have recorded the video. If investigators can confirm that a fellow officer recorded the extortion video, they can conclude that Marzula’s colleagues were involved in corruption and responsible for his death.

Police incompetence blamed

The controversial Police Pacifying Units (UPPs) in the city’s favelas initially had some success. The program included social measures and strategies designed to integrate officers within communities.

However, a series of events showing police brutality and corruption culminated with the 2013 disappearance of bricklayer Amarildo da Souza. The tide of popular opinion turned against the UPPs. Simultaneously, the program gradually began to run out of funding for its social element. Recent research from the PM found that shootings in favelas with UPPs increased by 13.7 percent between 2011 and 2016.

Meanwhile, Rio’s police forces have a reputation for being Brazil’s bloodiest. Officers often face unofficial impunity for civilian deaths occurring during operations, which researchers believe perpetuates violence.

But Rio police are also the force with the highest number of victims. There were 88 murders of Rio police officers both on and off duty in 2017 so far.

Problems with policing attitudes are present in training procedures, before police even being their duties. Investigations into police training by the Center of Applied Judicial Research revealed that police training practices may reinforce violence. 39 percent of 21,000 officers interviewed said they were victims of physical or psychological torture during training.