By Kate Rintoul, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – According to authorities Operação Lapa Presente (Operation Today’s Lapa) has been highly successful in terms of arrests. An official statement from the local government reports a total of 120 fugitives have been arrested in the six months till now.
This includes six who were wanted to face charges of murder, 51 for robbery, 25 for theft and 38 for drug trafficking and other crimes. Police have also made fifteen arrests of those found to be in possession of weapons, with eight of them carrying firearms.
In addition to this, it is also reported that 792 people were arrested for possessing narcotics either for their own consumption or for supplying others. A total of 4.5 kg of marijuana, cocaine, crack and ecstasy have been seized so far during the operation.
Crime intervention is enforced everyday between the hours of 9:30 PM and 5:30 AM with the patrol of 138 officers on foot, with a further 24 personnel on bikes and eleven vehicle units present. Agents of Operação Lapa Presente (Operation Today’s Lapa) made a major arrest of a wanted fugitive in the early hours of last Saturday (June 14).
Renato Almeida Salazar, 35, was approached by police in Praça Cardeal Câmara after he was reported to have been behaving suspiciously. When questioned, Salazar failed to present any valid form of identification so was taken into custody at Mem de Sá, where it was found that there was a warrant for his arrest for the crime of drug trafficking.
Launched by the state government of Rio de Janeiro, Operação Lapa Presente was implemented on January 1 2014 in a bid to protect the security of residents and visitors to the historic area of Lapa, which has remained a popular nightspot for those looking for a bohemian street-party experience of Rio.
The considerable operation is made up of eight public bodies: the Secretary of State, Military Police, Municipal Guard, office of Public Order, Social Services (which includes Conservation and Transportation) and Comlurb (waste disposal), who coordinate their actions. This ranges from the presence of officers in the neighborhood to deter crime to wider considerations to promote urban planning.
The police operation also relies upon local public support in the gathering of information and compliance. Part of the operation includes an anonymous phone service (97954-2424 and 97954-2525), through which residents and visitors can report crimes or suspicious activity. In the six months of the operation this service has received close to 800 calls.
While those living and working in the area have largely supported the operation, there are concerns that the focus on arrests has failed to address the underlying causes of crime in the area. Luiza Batista, a geography student at Universidade Federal Fluminense, or UFF, works at a hostel in Lapa. “Regarding the crime scene, the operation is very effective due the extensive policing. But if you look the entire context of the area, I think it’s stealing Lapa’s identity.
“Lapa was always a place for all kinds of characters, a place of cultural and social diversity. As Lapa became a touristic spot, the neighborhood has been gentrified, taking the poor people from there and sending them to the [outer low-income] suburbs.”