By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – As the city of Rio de Janeiro struggles with a financial crisis and a general security-image issue, authorities want to reinforce policing efforts focused on the tourism, and the summer high-season (December through February).
The Secretary of Security, in joint action with the Military and Civil police, have increased operations attending to national and foreign tourists for the summer, that begins today, including the holiday period and New Year’s Eve celebrations.
According to authorities the objective for this summer season is to provide increased human and technological resources, bringing the public closer and expanding the channels of security.
Government new sources report that visitors can now access options such as emergency service application 190 (which links to the U.S. 911 and European 112 international emergency numbers), web access to the Guide to Public Safety in five languages, and qualified and bilingual service by the Policing Battalion in Tourist Areas (BPTur).
Also Operação Praia (Beach Operation) has approximately 850 police officers from different units in action. The operation has technology support from two Mobile Command cars, which are based on the beach of Arpoador and Barra da Tijuca, with the military police as backup. The equipment has an image capture system with a range of two kilometers and images are transmitted by the helicopter of the Aeromóvel Group (GAM), in real time.
American Expatriate living in Rio, Krystee Morgan De Souza, explained her perspective on the sense of security, “Having federal enforcement around during the Olympics made it feel a lot safer so perhaps it was the abrupt removal of those extra forces that makes the lack of security seem so drastic these days. However, I cannot deny that I have personally seen more assaults and trouble in the favelas in this post-Olympics Rio.”
Adding, “I walk in Ipanema every day. Personally I don’t feel unsafe but I am constantly aware of potential threats and I take measures to avoid being a target: I don’t wear jewelry or carry nice purses and I remain conscious of my surroundings. If I can avoid walking on the beach in Copacabana, I do. This is where I have seen the most assaults, like necklaces being ripped off of the necks of tourists and petty thefts.”
The BPTur police force carries out the patrol on the beach of Copacabana with vehicles and bicycles. The strategic decision to focus the patrolling on bicycle on the most famous beachfront in Rio de Janeiro took into account the geography of the place, and the indication of bicycles aiding in the prevention of thefts, petty thefts and decentralized drug trafficking.
Nicky Francis, a British expatriate living in Rio and partner/founder AfroNegocios.com entrepreneurial magazine, shares his thoughts. “I haven’t noticed that security on the beach has gotten worse, but the security by the beach in my opinion has gotten worse, as after the Olympics it seemed like they pulled off most of the police security,” Francis explained.
However with the 2016 Olympic Games and international spotlight ending, Francis is quick to give some insight for travelers, “The advice I would give to tourists would be to stay aware of their surroundings especially with youths on bikes and to keep phones and valuables hidden.”
If an incident occurs, authorities say that about fifty percent of Military police (Policia Milita, PM) officers have command of a second language. French, Korean, Italian, Arabic and Russian, as well as Spanish and English, are some of the languages spoken in the Policing Battalion in Tourist Areas located in Copacabana.