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In the Face of Crime and Financial Disarray, Rio Residents Turn to Firearms

09/15/2017 - 11h18



Mônica Marques, 62, no longer strolls through the streets of Rio at night. Fátima Costa, 55, stopped parking her car out in front of her house. Rogério Medeiros, 32, went the full distance and bought a pistol for self-defense.

The rise in violence in Rio and the state's calamitous fiscal situation have provoked unease among residents when it comes to public security, a sensation that has not only been heightened by social media, but has also led to behavioral changes in the population, even among those who live in safer regions.

Both fear and the lack of faith in the public sector, have led many to become more reclusive, while others have decided to take security matters into their own hands.

Such behavioral dispositions can be witnessed in the Vila Kosmos neighborhood, on the outskirts of Rio. Whereas in the past people used to chat by their gates and sit on beach chairs, now, the city is authorizing the installation of security booths and the hiring of guards.

The neighborhood is not far from slums that are controlled by drug dealers, and a nearby expressway makes for a good escape route for criminals.

It is run by the 41st police battalion, one of the most embattled in the state, and the one that holds the highest rate of civilians killed by the police between January and July of this year (81). It is also the district that is ranked 5th worst when it comes to violent deaths (221) and robberies (9,016).

"We used to have five robberies a day here. When we realized the state wasn't going to take action, we decided to take action ourselves", said Everton Bitencourt, 57, who articulated a successful effort to prohibit "vehicles that don't belong to residents" from accessing the neighborhood's streets.

However, support for the measure is not unanimous. "Adopting a feudal approach won't make a difference. The way things are set up now give us a false sense of security. As soon as you open the gate you're exposed", said resident Marcelo Carvalho, 42.


The lack of faith in the public sector led Rogério Medeiros, 32, to buy a gun. He claims to have a gun license to shoot for sport and is now trying to get authorization from the Federal Police to use his gun outside his home.

Mr. Medeiros lives with his mother in Icaraí, an upper class neighborhood in Niterói, in the metropolitan area of Rio.

"For years this city has been turning into the wild west. When I found out that the police weren't being paid I started to panic", he said.

Folha contacted the Federal Police for statistics on the acquisition of firearms in the state, but did not get a reply.

The number of gun licenses conceded by the Army at the military base - which serves the states of Rio and Espírito Santo - more than doubled between 2015 to 2016 (jumping from 414 to 853). However, such the trend is also a national one.

The Army also stated that, between the months of January and June, the number of requests to make vehicles bulletproof went up by 12% when compared to the same period of last year.


Due to the state's calamitous financial situation, security servers have not been getting paid on time and still haven't received their 13th salary from 2016, while bonus payments for working extra hours have been delayed and so have payments awarded for hitting crime reduction targets - which haven't been paid since 2015.

Ignacio Cano, at the Laboratory for Violence Analysis (at the University of the State of Rio - UERJ), said that, historically, whenever there has been a rise in violence, a rise in reclusiveness follows.

"It happens in all social classes. Those who are wealthier buy cameras and bulletproof cars. Those who are poorer close off their homes and get a dog", he said.


Read the article in the original language

Lucas Landau/Folhapress
"Adopting a feudal approach won't make a difference. As soon as you open the gate you're exposed," said resident Marcelo Carvalho
"Adopting a feudal approach won't make a difference. As soon as you open the gate you're exposed," said resident Marcelo Carvalho

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