By Anna Kaiser, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Ten German tourists were robbed at gunpoint on a guided tour in Tijuca National Forest on Thursday morning. The group’s van was intercepted on Estrada da Paineiras by two cars and six armed men. No one was harmed in the holdup, but the group of tourists along with the guide and driver were robbed of their money, electronics, and legal documents, all while one of the tourists had a gun held to his head.
The terrified group reported to O Globo that the police patrolling the area were negligent in dealing with the crime. The guide who had been leading the party said, “I saw a group of police officers in training. When I told them about the assault, they said it was procedure to call 190 [Rio’s emergency response hotline number].”
After the emergency number was dialed, additional police arrived on the scene, but too late to catch the thieves. Lt. Col. Joseli Cândido da Silva admitted that the police’s response was insufficient in addressing the crime against the tourists.
He added that while they have nine officers and three vehicles patrolling the forest, along with bases at Vista Chinesa, Mirante Dona Marta, Mesa do Imperador and at the Corcovado train station, this incident “lit a red light” and that the police “will examine the patrolling system and make necessary adjustments so that it will not happen again.”
This is not the first incident of armed robbery in Tijuca National Forest. In February 2012, three thieves robbed a total of 30 hikers, in separate small groups, along the Pedra da Gávea hiking trail. Tijuca National Forest is the largest urban rainforest in the world and is home to some of Rio’s most famous tourist attractions, including waterfalls, viewpoints, hiking trails, and Christ Redeemer Statue.
The crime against the tourists is one of many that have occurred this year, although overall crime rates in Rio have dropped rapidly in recent years. An American woman was gang raped while her boyfriend was severely beaten in a passenger van last week and in February a contractor for the U.S. Department of State, Victoria Tcaciuc, had been strangled to death in a Centro, Rio hotel room.
The recent crimes against tourists have shed an international spotlight on challenges within the city’s law enforcement system that will hopefully lead to improvements in security leading up the World Cup and Olympics.
Read more (in Portuguese).
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