RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – This week we published an article about a report by the ISP (Instituto de Segurança Pública) in Rio State, which came out mid-October, about a dramatic reduction in violent crime over last year. It was almost unbelievable, and in fact misunderstood at first by this editor, which accounted for the delay in covering it.

Stone Korshak, Editor and Publisher of The Rio Times.

It is no secret Rio has a reputation for being a dangerous place. Just last year around this time they brought the Brazilian army in to battle an uprising by the drug gangs. This combined military and police force has continued to occupy a large swath of Zona Norte (North Zone) favalas called the Complexo do Alemão.

The trend is continuing, with “pacification forces” moving into favelas in a strategic pattern to instill law and order in areas long since run by well-organized and well-armed drug gangs. Perhaps “well-organized” is giving too much credit, or at least it is relative.

There is a growing concern that as the drug gangs lose power, they are being replaced by militias – who are proving to be as dangerous, if not more so, then “traficantes”. These militia guys are much better organized, armed, and the big difference is they are much better connected (with police and government).

But militias aside, a fear heard voiced on the streets of Rio is that as the drug gangs are suppressed and dismantled, what are all these criminals going to do for money? In the last year or two we have covered just a portion of the hijacking and high-profile robberies, and there has been a sense of more to come.

This includes a September street-robbery in Botafogo of my girlfriend and another friend, where two kids riding double on a bicycle rolled up with a large handgun and relieved them of their purses and cell phones. Thankfully the young ladies were unharmed, but a mugging on a well traveled Zona Sul (South Zone) block is always unnerving.

It was with this perception that the ISP report was initially set aside for closer review, but the numbers are far reaching. It covers homicides as well as theft and other less violent crimes. You don’t have to speak Portuguese tho get the gist of this:
– Homicídio – Redução de 10% (2.876 em 2010 – 2.587 em 2011).
– Latrocínio – Redução de 26,1% (88 em 2010 – 65 em 2001).
– Auto de Resistência – Redução de 27,4% (563 em 2010 – 409 em 2011).
– Roubo a transeunte – Redução de 13,5% (38.245 em 2010 – 33.078 em 2011).
– Roubo de Aparelho Celular – Redução de 19,4% (4.287 em 2010 – 3.457 em 2011).
– Roubo em Coletivo – Redução de 16,3% (4.805 em 2010 – 4.021 em 2011).
– Roubo a Residência – Redução de 20,2% (856 em 2010 – 683 em 2011).
– Roubo de Carga – Aumento de 11,3% (1.501 em 2010 – 1.670 em 2011).
– Armas Apreendidas – Redução de 1,6% (4.424 em 2010 – 4.355 em 2011).
– Prisões – Aumento de 19,6% (11.355 em 2010 – 13.578 em 2011).
– Apreensão de drogas – Aumento de 19,3% (4.937 em 2010 – 5.888 em 2011)

Looking at the report, and reflecting on the drug gang rule of many favelas, connects to “The Wire – Season Three”, which I just re-watched. Both the idea of an un-policed drug zone to keep certain community streets clear of crime, and the idea of police statistics being manipulate-able (if that is a word).

Major Colvin announcing at Comstat that he practically legalized drugs in his district, The Wire Season Three
Major Colvin announcing at Comstat that he practically legalized drugs in his district, The Wire Season Three, image recreation.


  1. never saw The Wire, but the reasoning that a no-go zone for cops can somehow help public order is sick. that’s what the favelas were for decades, starting with Gov. Brizola. Were the streets safe? Of course not. Were neighbouring streets safe? of course not.

  2. Oi Michael, I agree, the show (which comes highly recommended) put forth the complicated concept which ultimately turned the “legal-drug” zones into pits of hell. While the lawless existence of the favelas is more complicated (not to mention non-fiction), it struck me that it was a large scale realization of a social experiment… of course, crassly over-simplying.


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