By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In an effort to combat the recent wave of robberies and break-ins that have plagued Rio’s upscale neighborhood of Leblon, local residents and merchants are banding together to implement their own private neighborhood security initiative.
According to local news reports, the plan involves contracting private security guards and installing a system of interconnected security cameras throughout the area.
The new neighborhood initiative is being organized by the Associação de Moradores e Amigos do Leblon (Association of Residents and Friends of Leblon), along with the Leblon Câmara do Comércio (Chamber of Commerce).
“We are tired of waiting for a decision from the Secretary of Security. We decided to create a project with our own resources,” exclaimed Evelyn Rosenzweig, president of the Association to O Globo.
According to Rosenzweig, the idea is to model the Operação Segurança Presente (Operation Security Today), a joint initiative between the Rio de Janeiro state government and the Federation of Commerce of Rio de Janeiro (Fecomércio), which was implemented in 2014 to reduce crime in the neighborhoods of Lagoa, Aterro do Flamengo, Centro, Lapa and Méier.
“Entrepreneurs and merchants are helping. It will not be a militia, but a project protected by law, similar to Segurança Presente,” Rosenzweig explained.
Famous for having the most expensive real estate in all of Brazil, many of Leblon’s most well-known establishments have recently been victims of multiple break-ins, including Aconchego Carioca, Bar Bracarense, and Armazém do Café.
“I’ve been in the market for fifteen years,” said Kátia Barbosa, chef and owner of the popular bar and restaurant Aconchego Carioca. “I’m not looking for guilty parties, I’m just looking for a solution to reduce the chaos that Rio has turned into.”
Barbosa revealed that Aconchego Carioca, located at Rua Rainha Guilhermina, has already been broken-in a total six times so far this year. “It is no longer the fear of violence that I feel,” she said, “it is sadness. I’m saddened to find out just how far we’ve come.”
“I do not know if it’s a lack of policing or something else. It seems that burglars know when, how and where to attack,” exclaimed frustrated entrepreneur Marcos Modiano. Modiano is a partner in the coffee shop chain, Armazém do Café, whose Leblon location at Rua Rita Ludolf, was robbed twice in April.
“I remember Leblon a few years ago. People walked the streets at night, came back from the beach and strolled around the neighborhood,” said Modiano. “I worked from 8AM till 11PM. Now there is no more, because there is no one on the streets at night. Nobody goes around because they do not have police. That Leblon is over.”
In a released statement, Rio’s Military Police responded that the 23rd Battalion, which is responsible for patrolling Leblon, “is attentive to these criminal modalities and acting through rounds and strategic actions to inhibit criminal activity in the region and increase the sense of security among the population.”