By Mary Carroll, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On May 16th a new Unidade de Ordem Pública (UOP, Public Order Unit) began the patrolling of Catete, Flamengo and Gloria, as part of Rio’s Operação Choque de Ordem (Operation Shock and Order). The aim is to combat disorganization in the city, targeting unauthorized street vending, illegal parking, the occupation of sidewalks (i.e. tables and chairs) among other illegalities.
The new UOP force in Catete, Flamengo and Gloria is reported to have 347 Guarda Municipal (GM, municipal guard) officers, and on the first day alone there were 125 fines and 27 vehicles were towed.
This is the sixth UOP to be put into place in the city, as they have already been enforced in Copacabana, Leblon, Ipanema, Tijuca, and Centro.
Mike Ryan, the Australian owner of TribOz jazz club in Gloria (old Lapa), explains the program has been good for business but it it still not clear how it will benefit the community as a whole.
Ryan: “I’ve lived in this immediate area for around ten years and have witnessed the transformation that spelled the rebirth of Lapa as a vital inner-city area in terms of cultural history and patrimony.”
“The social considerations surrounding UOP intentions for so-called “law and order” must be evaluated in the context of interrelated and well defined plans for social reform. Accordingly, I feel it is far too early to gauge their impact.”
There has also been a retraining of the municipal guards who will serve in the new UOP, with the plan of becoming more organized and familiar within neighborhoods, to help identify the specific problems of each specific area.
Alex Costa, Secretaria Especial de Ordem Pública (SEOP, Special Secretary of Public Oder), explains that “it was observed in the research before the UOP was introduced, one of the main problems was irregular economic activity.”
Although, there is concern over how the zero tolerance approach will effect informal workers. It was reported in 2010 that the FGV estimate of Brazil’s informal economy is R$578 billion, or the equivalent to Argentina’s total GDP at the time.
Costa claims the last UOP have been a success. He explained “The feeling of security has increased a lot in Tijuca,” so much, that the Residents Association of a neighborhood in Tijuca called upon Mayor Eduardo Paes for a meeting about the freeing up of space at Praça Saens Peña, by removing railing from the square.
From research carried out from April 25th to April 28th in Catete, Flamengo and Gloria, it shed light on the main problems perceived by residents of the areas. More than half of residents found the space taken up by restaurants and bars (with tables and chairs) on the sidewalk and cars parked on the sidewalk to be a nuisance.
An alarmingly high 91 percent complained of the daily presence of homeless people, with 63 percent complaining about the poorly maintained sidewalks that they use on a daily basis. Costa informs that the Department of Social Assistance will be involved in dealing with homeless people.