By Doug Gray, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The city’s first Police Pacification Unit (UPP) unit in Botafogo’s Santa Marta favela will celebrate its fifth anniversary at the end of the year, but there is mounting evidence that the pacification program is not being sufficiently supported by police elsewhere on Rio’s roads.
Figures released this week show that from May to June, street robberies in Tijuca, the neighborhood bordered by six of the city’s 33 pacified favelas, were up 141% on the same period last year.
The data, provided by the Institute of Public Safety (ISP), will be an unwelcome reminder to residents of the spate of robberies and hold-ups experienced in the region when the UPP concept was in its infancy.
Car thefts in July in the capital were up ten percent on the same month last year, but in the Baixada Fluminense, the vast, sprawling suburb largely neglected by the authorities, the same period saw a 35% increase.
Homicides have seen a steady decrease since the UPPs, but the substantial financial vacuum left in these poorer communities by the removal of drug gangs has been claiming victims of a different kind.
A lack of police presence on the streets has long been a complaint of residents across the city, and many more robberies go unreported because of a lack of faith in arrests being made.
Between January and June of this year, ISP figures show a tripling in mobile phone theft in the Jardim Botânico, Lagoa and Gávea neighborhoods. Robberies in and around Leblon were also up by almost a third earlier this year, with residents blaming the dark, temporary corridors created by the metro construction work for providing thieves with ideal hiding places.
The Rio de Janeiro State Secretary for Public Safety, José Beltrame, came under fire from heads of police this week for suggesting that recently graduated officers should be used in pacified communities because they are yet to face ‘the vices of war and corruption.’
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