By Doug Gray, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – The Institute of Public Security (ISP) has published details of a sizable drop in homicide rates in the State of Rio De Janeiro for the month of February 2010, along with other indications pointing towards significant decreases in smaller crimes. The picture outside the state capitals, however, appears to be getting bleaker, with an upward trend in crime uncovered in the municipalities.

Minister for Public Security José Mariano Beltrame, photo by Antonio Cruz/ABr.

Rio has long struggled with an image of a city full of violence and barely controlled criminal gangs, and while the vast majority of visitors may disagree with that cliché, available statistics have not improved the image. Now it looks as if some new information is shedding some light and fortunately for the Cidade Maravilhosa, the picture is looking better.

With the compilation of figures from earlier this year just completed, The ISP has indicated a 14.9 percent drop in homicides in Rio in February compared with the same month in 2009, and the total of 473 cases represents the lowest number for February since 1991. Perhaps even more remarkably, the number of car thefts in the same period dropped by 628, and street robberies by 1,237.

José Mariano Beltrame was quick to explain the impressive numbers, and the Minister for Public Security has been busy implementing the ‘favela pacification’ process across the city over recent months. The majority have been peaceful, but eleven people were killed last week in Complexo Alemao alone, when attempts to remove gang control of one of the most notoriously dangerous areas of the city began.

In 2008 armed forced in Complexo do Alemão, in Rio de Janeiro, photo by Wilson Dias/ABr/Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

The numbers of car and street thefts in Botafogo and Copacabana, where two of the more high profile pacification projects began the process, have dramatically decreased according to research by Secovi Rio.

A report analyzing violence in Brazil over a ten-year period from 1997 to 2007 suggests that while the authorities appear to be winning the battle in the cities, elsewhere in the country the problems are in fact increasing, and if the trend continues, worries over the effects of pacifying Rio on the outlying areas seem to be well founded.

The findings by the Sangari Institute in Sao Paulo show that while state capitals saw an average fall in homicides from 45.7 per 100,000 to 36.6, a 13.5 percent increase was witnessed in the interior of the country. This means that although large cities like Rio are seeing a much-improved picture, smaller cities like Saquarema and Macae have rising homicide rates, which could continue as a result of neglect in the race to pacify the Olympic metropolis.

Figures in their report ‘Mapa da Violencia 2010’ over the last five years show that Brazil has the sixth worse homicide rate in the world, at 25.8 per 100,000 inhabitants, compared with the U.S.A in 27th place with 6 per 100,000 and the U.K. in 85th with 0.4 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Meanwhile this week in Brasilia the Secretary for Public Security Ricardo Balestreri and Alcino Rocha from the Ministry of Sport began a week of meetings to discuss security during the World Cup, to be held in Brazil in 2014.

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