By Philip Sever, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – In one week three burglaries have taken place in Santa Teresa. The first incident took place early Thursday morning on Rua Alice. Two Burglars, one believed to be under the age of 12, entered a house.The owner of the house however managed to fight off the intruders with a candlestick. The younger of the two intruders was arrested by the police.
The elder of the two intruders was chased by police but managed to escape with a cellular phone and R$50. The minor was taken to a child protection site. It is believed the two criminals live in the favela, Morro da Mineira.
In a second case a house on Rua Hermenegildo de Barros was robbed early on Wednesday morning. Criminals entered the house armed with knives and guns. Cellular phones, DVDS and money was taken. One of the criminals has been identified by the police but all the burglars remain at large.
The third and probably most audacious of the burglaries took place last Monday. Six armed men invaded a house by driving their car through the wall of the property. The criminals took three cameras, two laptops, four cellular phones, one computer, one sound system, one GPS, $1,500 and R$200. None of the culprits were caught.
The events of the last week prompted a meeting by the Association of Local Residents. The meeting took place at Centro Cultural Laurinda Santos Lobo Rua Monte Alegre. The meeting was attended by the police and local politicians. Including Marcus Antonio; the commander of BPM. Mendes Afonso; subprefeito of the Centro Histórico, Marcus Vinicius; administrator of the local political office and Fabio Vinelli; representative of the Municipal Guard. The meeting took place last Thursday evening. The meeting allowed locals to articulate their views about what has been happening and also decide upon a solution.
Some locals stated during the meeting that they believed that the popularity of Santa Teresa with tourists has contributed to the increased violence and crime. However local politicians were reluctant to add comment.
Politicians and local businesses like and need the presence of tourists within Santa Teresa and in Rio. More to the point local politicians and business men like the money tourists bring. Politicians are therefore not going to agree with locals that think that tourists are a possible cause of the problems. Politicians also however do not want to alienate locals as the politicians rely on local votes to remain in office. After all tourists cannot vote but local residents can.
Locals however have also acknowledged that the increased presence of tourists has led to Santa Teresa having more publicity than it otherwise would have, local transportation has also improved.
Most politicians believe that in the case of Santa Teresa an increased police presence during the early hours will reduce the incidence of violent crime. Also tourists being better informed so that they do not make themselves a target will help the situation.
Most of the local politicians and police cite the main reason for the increased crime in Santa Teresa is not tourists but the proximity of the favela Morro da Mineira.
Morro da Mineira has featured highly in the news recently as a site for battles between the police and criminals. The fighting has been so fierce that some local press have labelled events “Guerra no Morro da Mineira”, “War in Morro da Mineira”..
In one incident, the police killed 19 people over a period of twenty four hours. Santa Teresa is very close to this favela and several others which make the area a prime target for criminals. The presence of tourists does not add to the problem the problem is already present within the favela. The solution to this problem is political policy and coordination between local politicians and the police.
Subsequently the Military police and the Prefeitura (local government), have announced that there will be an increased police presence in the streets of Santa Teresa. This will start from Monday, March 16th.