By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The beaches of Rio are a draw for tourists from around the world, as the backdrop of mountain views and easy access to city convenience remains just a short walk away. However an increase in petty crime and robberies along the beaches, and a lack of police presence, is raising concerns among residents.
Authorities recently announced Operação Praia (Beach Operation), which reportedly has approximately 850 police officers from different units in action, along with other tactical support programs.
However local news outlet O Globo reported that their investigation on Thursday, January 5th, only found 45 police in the span of five hours along the 51 kilometers of beaches stretching from Barra da Tijuca to Leme.
Their team found only two PMs (policia militar or military police) at the starting point at Praia do Pontal in Recreio, four in Leblon, nineteen in Arpoador and twenty in Copacabana. Seven municipal guards were in barracks in Barra, and thirteen were traveling on foot or in vehicles by Arpoador.
When the news crew passed Ipanema beach at around 3PM, they did not find military police or municipal guards. Julia Michaels, an American expatriate, author and the journalist behind Rio Real Blog lives in Ipanema and told The Rio Times, “I run by [Ipanema] every other day but rarely see any police on foot,” however she adds, “it is early when I run, around 7AM.”
In terms of advise for tourists, Michaels shares, “really, all I can say is that if you go to the beach, take no cell phone with you and just the cash you need. period. any time of day or night.”
Chuck Cassie, a Canadian expatriate who has lived in Rio for over ten years, and is managing partner of the Lucky Screw pub in Copacabana, shares his experiences of late. “I was robbed at knife point by three guys on the beach sidewalk in Copacabana two months ago. That was 6:30 PM.”
He continues, “One month ago a guy on a bicycle tried stealing my cell phone in broad daylight. Yesterday a guy on a bicycle stole the sunglasses off my face! Luckily they were only R$5.”
“These days I see or hear a robbery during daylight hours about once every 2 or 3 weeks. I had almost never experienced or seen robberies before the Olympics,” he explained, but adds, “I rarely saw [police] on the beach before and I rarely see them now.”
According to O Globo, the PM responded to their request for comment that Operação Praia began on September 24, 2016 and counts on the performance of 850 police officers throughout Rio de Janeiro. The Municipal Guard reported that approximately seventy agents patrol the beaches on weekdays. On weekends, the strength increases to 220 men.