Residents of Rio de Janeiro say they support the use of the military as a measure to tackle rising rates of violence in Brazil’s second-biggest city, but they have little faith that the intervention will achieve its goals.
A recent survey conducted by polling organization Datafolha in partnership with the Brazilian Public Security Forum (Fórum Brasileiro de Segurança Pública) shows that 76 percent of residents support the decision earlier this year by the federal government to put the armed forces in charge of security in Rio. But 69 percent also think that it will do little to improve the situation.
Support for the military intervention is likely related to profound fears about the crime wave that has shaken the city over the past several years. A large majority of residents — 87 percent — live in fear of being murdered, an increase of 11 percent from 2016.
When contrasted with the average Brazilian, residents of Rio de Janeiro are more likely to be physically or sexually assaulted. They are also twice as likely to experience police violence.
Meanwhile, 30 percent of residents say that they have been caught in the crossfire between criminals and police, with black citizens being 28 percent more likely than their white counterparts to have had such an experience. Eight percent of residents say that they or a relative have been the victim of a stray bullet.
Rio de Janeiro is not the most violent state in Brazil; violence is more pronounced in the north of the country. Moreover, there is a significant variation within the city in terms of where crime and violence is concentrated. For example, Rio’s Baixada Fluminense region has about the same homicide rate as Brazil’s current murder capital, the state of Sergipe. However, other areas of the city have far lower rates of violence.
InSight Crime Analysis
The poll results underscore how residents of Rio de Janeiro are clearly concerned about the backsliding of their city’s security situation, while also being unsure about the best way to tackle the issue.
Without a consensus on an alternative strategy, insecurity will likely continue to deepen. Indeed, after the announcement of the military intervention, crimes like murder and cargo thefts actually increased.
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The political will to implement a different course of action seems to be near non-existent. Although seizing drugs and killing and capturing criminals do very little to address underlying drivers of crime and violence, they are politically expedient events that officials can hold up to the public as evidence that they are doing something about an issue of great importance for residents.
Some authorities within the military have spoken about the need for a change in strategy, warning that militarization of public security can come with its own problems. But it is unlikely in the near term that the political winds will shift, especially ahead of the presidential election later this year that will be decided by Brazilian voters preoccupied with growing insecurity around the country.