Rio de Janeiro is the second largest city in Brazil and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Needless to say, the upcoming Summer Olympic Games has drawn some serious attention to Rio’s current situation. A review of the latest news from Rio, reports on crime, take precedence.
By NADIA SUSSMAN | Nov. 10, 2015 | 8:23
Muggings (purse-snatchings) and gun crimes are among the most common crimes in Rio. Needless to say, travelers are particularly at risk of being attacked by robbers especially during the evening and at night in areas close to the major attractions in the city. For example, quite a few incidents have already occurred along the trails that lead to the gigantic statue of Christ the Redeemer which is located on top of the Corocovado Mountain and the Tijuca Forest which is located below the Mountain. Both are highly travelled by visitors and tourists. Warning: In such a situation, travelers are advised not to fight back and/or resist but to surrender their belongings in order to stay safe. But what is most advisable as suggested in our Travel Do’s and Dont’s article, is to travel in groups, leave most of your money and your valuables at home or at the hotel and remain focused at ALL times while you are in public places.
The good news is that the city’s homicide rate has reportedly decreased by almost 50% from 2005 – 2012. Rio’s rapidly expanding Police Force has worked hard to drastically reduce the city’s murder rate by introducing an innovative crime fighting strategy about 6 years go. This new approach, which is considerably different in comparison to the shock-troop approach which prevailed for many years, has proven to be highly effective.
Nevertheless, travelers are continuously being issued warnings to ensure their safety. The favelas of Rio de Janeiro are a source of curiosity for travellers from developed countries. In 2008, a favela pacification program was instituted in certain favelas such as those in the Zona Sul. Why? Because many favelas in Rio exist beyond the limits of the police and other city officials. So what does it really mean to say some favelas are considered ‘pacified?’ According to Wikipedia, the Pacifying Police Unit (Portuguese: Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora, also translated as Police Pacification Unit), abbreviated UPP, is a law enforcement and social services program pioneered in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which aims at reclaiming territories, more commonly favelas, controlled by gangs of drug dealers. So travelers can visit at their own risk, but visitors are therefore encouraged to steer clear of favelas that are not pacified by the Government and to exercise extreme caution when visiting pacified favelas.
Some local companies in Rio offer hostel facilities, and room rentals in various favelas, and even offer favela jeep tours to allow tourists an opportunity to explore the areas. However, be aware that even in the pacified favelas, police protection may be limited, especially at night. According to local news reports, there has been violence related problems in pacified favelas such as Rocinha and Complexo de Alemao. If you choose to tour or to stay in a favela, neither the city police nor the tour company will be able to guarantee your safety.
Currently, in preparation for the 2016 Olympics, the Government of Brazil is working hard at cleaning up the favelas of Rio before the games start and the visitors start pouring in. The State Government of Rio issued a statement on the 3rd of April, 2015, about a possible military occupation of the Complexo do Alemao favela in an attempt to reduce crimes. However, there has been some controversy surrounding how this move could pose a threat to the lives of innocent residents and their daily lifestyle.
All in all, travellers are once again, recommended to exercise extreme caution when it comes to going out at night in Brazil. There have even been reports of carjacking incidents on Linha Vermelha, the road that links Rio’s southern zone, to the airport. Therefore, motorists are not exempt from exercising caution at night as well. For the moment, public transportation is also quite risky and one of the the best ways of getting around is the yellow taxis on which the company information, red license plates and phone numbers are openly displayed. When it comes to choosing accommodations, it is best to look for reputable establishments that are located in safe areas and provides adequate safety measures to protect you, your family and your belongings. Rio de Janeiro is a place for the street savvy and quick thinker. If you intend to explore the city’s many beautiful attractions and you desire to stay safe, be careful and alert at all times.