By Doug Gray, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – After two serious carjackings in less than 24 hours in the city, motorists are once more on the alert against one of Rio’s most prevalent means of theft. On Monday a car was stolen at gunpoint and the incident ended in a shootout with police in Copacabana, whilst on Tuesday afternoon an 81 year-old was injured escaping from bandits stealing the vehicle in which she was traveling with her daughter and son in law.
The incidents are nothing new for the majority of Cariocas who have long been advised to stick to the middle lanes of main roads to avoid the attentions of opportunist thieves and keep their bags under car seats. At night, red lights can be ignored in many areas with stopped vehicles otherwise providing a prime target.
Monday’s incident took place on Avenida Princesa Isabel, the busy main road between Botafogo and Copacabana just beyond Rio Sul Shopping Mall. Three armed men robbed a Honda from Centro and shortly afterward the car was identified by Copacabana police traveling towards the morro, and a shootout in Tunél Novo ensued.
Abandoning it, the thieves then attempted to steal a Fox make of car, but failed under concerted police fire and fled, with one being caught and arrested having been shot in the leg. The remaining two eventually stole a taxi in which they made their escape.
The following morning, Tuesday 21st September, a couple, both 53 years-old, driving their mother to the Hospital da Lagoa, stopped on Avenida Brasil and were attacked by two men. The 81 year-old woman injured her leg as she fell out of the car but no-one else was hurt.
After an exchange of gunfire, police believe that the pair escaped in a second car, again stolen from Avenida Brasil, the road that passes from Centro to the Galeão International Airport and on through the beginning of the Baixada Fluminense in Zona Norte.
As Rio prepares for the Pacification of the major Zona Sul favelas of Rocinha and Vidigal, there is a danger that such episodes could be on the rise, as bandidos look to new sources of money beyond the drug trade. It has already led to some areas of Friburgo, the beautiful green region to the north of Metropolitan Rio, seeing a worrying trend of sharp increases in car theft and burglary.
The police had not commented on the incidents at the time of going to press, but were praised for their swift responses and will be maintaining renewed vigilance ahead of the approaching high season just over two months away.