By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Earlier this week the state government of Rio announced that its ongoing ‘Operação Segurança Presente’ (Security Today) program is a continuing success, with over 12,000 arrests and counting in the neighborhoods it operates.
The security operation, which now involves over 1,000 officers, was first launched in Lapa in January 2014, as a way of deterring petty crime around the popular neighborhood.
The program expanded the operation to cover the neighborhoods of Lagoa, Flamengo and Méier.
With the run up to the Olympics, the authorities further announced that the revitalized port area and city center would be getting its own security force, ‘Centro Presente,’ which was also deemed a success.
The effort is the result of a partnership between the State Government, through the Department of Social Welfare and Human Rights, with the City Hall and the Federation of Commerce of Rio de Janeiro (Fecomércio).
Though the program is often said to be successfully combating petty crime in these areas, it hasn’t been without its critics.
Almost within a week of its launch, the then Secretary of Security, José Mariano Beltrame, as reported by O Globo, dubbed it little more than “shopping surveillance,” while questioning where the money would come from, for what is, in essence, privatized policing.
In the same report, State Representative Paulo Ramos, even went so far as to call the program a “militia.” A concern that has been echoed by others.
While the ‘Presente’ forces are given special training in respecting civilians’ rights and claim to record all of their arrests with video cameras, as well as tracking their officers’ whereabouts using GPS, they are primarily made up of either members of the military police working off-duty, or the reserve and retirees of the Armed Forces.
It is an interesting time for the government to be celebrating the success of the force, given the historic rise in crime in the state. Yet perhaps the government news release was intended to to counter the recent speculation that it could soon be suspended due to a lack of funding.