By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Wednesday, April 18th, Rio de Janeiro’s Instituto de Segurança Publica – ISP (Public Security Institute), released the state’s much-anticipated crime statistics for March 2018, the first full month of the federal military intervention.
Despite the military takeover, robberies in Rio actually rose to record-breaking levels in several key categories, including car theft, cargo theft, pedestrian robberies, and cell phone theft.
Vehicle thefts in March totaled 5,358, a seven percent increase from the 5,002 registered in March 2017 and the most ever recorded for the month since the ISP began tracking car thefts in 1991.
There were 917 cargo thefts in March and 7,655 pedestrian robberies, both ISP all-time highs, and far surpassing the same period in 2017. However, the ISP report points out that many of the March 2017 figures can be considered “underreported” due to the Civil Police strike going on at the time.
Cell phone thefts, which the ISP began tracking in 2001, totaled 2,188 in March, a modest increase from the 1,937 registered in March 2017, and also a record high for the month.
Paulo Storani, former commander of the Military Police’s Special Operations Battalion (Bope) told Globo news that the ISP report shows that Brazil’s Armed Forces have yet to adopt measures to deal with the state’s urban street crime, which, by default, remains the domain of the Military Police.
“Naturally, these crimes that relate to urban life are constantly growing,” said Storani. “And it is no use for the army to mobilize its resources because the experience of the military is not the same as that of the Military Police, which is focused on the activity of the streets.”
Public security expert José Ricardo Bandeira added that the main problem is that Brazil’s military is not being placed in high crime areas, but rather they are being mostly used to patrol Rio’s Zona Sul (South Zone).
“There is no point in reinforcing the patrol along the border of Zona Sul and Barra,” he exclaimed. “It serves to give visibility to the operation but does not result in a reduction of the indexes. Crime, in general, is in other regions.”
Despite the rise in several indices in March, according to the ISP, the military intervention may have led to stable figures in one category last month: homicides. In March, there were 503 homicides in the state, only slightly more than the 498 registered last March.
Speaking to the media after the report’s release, Rio Governor Luiz Fernando Pezão, emphasized that the increases in crime were not a surprise as the military intervention has just started.
“It will not be magic,” said the Governor. “We are at a very difficult time in the state, with a lack of investments and resources, but I’m sure we will improve these numbers month by month….[The] Armed Forces are planning to reverse this picture.”
Brazil President Michel Temer ordered the military takeover of Rio de Janeiro’s public security sector back on February 16th. At the time, the state was already in the midst of registering unprecedented surges in violence and crime with some categories reaching near thirty-year highs.