By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The use of social media has emerged as a vital tool in Rio de Janeiro’s security efforts against crime as well as a public relations tool for the military police (PM). According to government news sources, the new communication channels are way for citizens to communicate with the police, to make complaints, request services and pass along information.
The Rio military police’s Facebook Page, created only last year, has over 300,000 followers with each post earning, on average, 3,238 likes, comments or shares, according to website analytics tool LikeAlyzer.
“One of the concerns we had when we created the Facebook page,” said military police Captain Maicon Pereira, who administers the site, “was to prove to visitors that this was an official police website.”
He added, “We contacted each fake page and informed Facebook so that we could ensure our seal of authenticity and make people feel secure to make complaints.” According to Captain Pereira, once a complaint is posted on the site, the average response time is about one hour.
In addition to Facebook, the military police’s 2nd Battalion, which covers Botafogo, Urca and Humaita; as well as Laranjeiras, Flamengo and Cosme Velho, receives complaints through mobile app, WhatsApp. The complaints are then sent to nearby patrols to investigate.
2nd Battalion Lieutenant Colonel Ricardo Naldoni told a government agency that, thanks to social media, “In March, we managed to keep incidents of vehicle theft, violence and murder, within the Public Security Institute’s targets.”
Similarly, in Jacarepagua, the 18th Battalion, which had already been using Facebook and Whatsapp, added Twitter to its social media toolkit. “The information passed on by local residents is very important,” said 18th Battalion commander, Colonel Rogério Figueiredo, “Today, we can not do without these tools.”
Demonstrating the power of social media and mobile phone apps providing justice for all, in March, a group called, Fórum de Juventudes (Youth Forum) launched the app “Nós por Nós” (Us for Us) to help residents report police misconduct and abuse. In the first few weeks of launching it had already been downloaded over 500 times with over forty incidents reported.
In 2013 it was reported that the military police in Rio de Janeiro are Brazil’s most corrupt police force, according to the National Victimization Survey, commissioned by the Ministry of Justice and the United Nations Program for Development. The study also showed that the state of Rio is subject to more crime than the rest of the entire Southeast region, including São Paulo.