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According to data disclosed by Rio de Janeiro Public Security Institute (ISP), in the first four months of 2023, the numbers of pedestrian thefts increased in Rio’s central area. The number of cases involving cell phones, the preferred target, increased too. After the pandemic the city’s central area has been suffering with difficulties in returning to its past condition. Still today, there are many buildings and regions quite empty, what makes it easier for criminals to commit crimes.

Thefts and Robberies

From January to April 2023, cases of pedestrian theft have gone up by 23.4% (+293), while cell phone theft increased by 28.6% (+388). The results correspond to the area protected by the 5th Police Battalion, which is responsible for Downtown, Gamboa, Santo Cristo, Saúde, Lapa, Paquetá and Santa Teresa.

The area around Praça Mauá has the biggest number of pedestrian thefts, 49.81%, while the area near Mem de Sá comes in second, with 33.1%. Cases are concentrated in four periods, from 20:00 to 21:00; at 1:00; at 6:00; and at 10:00.

When it comes to cell phone thefts, Mem de Sá comes in first with 44.9%, and Praça Mauá, in second, with 30.96%. The riskiest periods, with more cases, are from 1:00 to 5:00; and from 16:00 to 00:00.

Praça Tiradentes

Recently, media sources have reported that the Praça Tiradentes has been used by criminals to hide several bladed and blunt weapons. However, authorities informed that police patrols and groups of social workers hired by the state have been working to shelter homeless people and drug addicts in that area. Since the beginning of the year, in downtown Rio alone, including the perimeter of Praça Tiradentes, the Public Order Secretariat (SEOP) has already seized more than 1,500 bladed objects, scissors, fake firearms, in addition to materials for the use of narcotics.


News outlets have been reporting a series of large buildings in the central area that are still empty today due to the effects of the pandemic. Buildings with up to 31 floors remain with no tenants. This has an effect on the movement of people and on the local security.

Homeless Population

The impact of the pandemic went beyond the migration of business to a remote mode of work. Recently, Rio’s City Hall carried out a census to understand the city’s homeless population. The survey identified 7,865 homeless people, an increase of 8.2% compared to the last census, from 2020.

The city central area concentrates most people living on the streets. There, the number of homeless people rose 18.2%.

Another worrying piece of data from the survey is the number of drug addicts on the streets: 1,227. Most of these people, however, are concentrated in “cracolândias”.

The South Zone

Other areas of the city are affected by the same phenomenon. In the last week of May, SEOP agents seized about 40 projectiles of different calibers, in an urban planning action and reception of homeless people in Jardim de Alah, in Leblon. Cocaine and four knives were found as well.

In the beginning of May, operations were carried out in the neighborhoods of Copacabana, Ipanema, Botafogo, Flamengo, Glória, Estácio, Rio Comprido and Centro. An axe, 10 knives, seven iron bars and two saws were seized.

Poverty Profile

According to the National Household Sample Survey (PNAD), disclosed by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), the country’s poor population has a new profile, of even more vulnerable group of people. The poorest in Brazil has been looking for work for a long period, around ten years, but it has not been able to find.

In 2001, the occupancy rate of Brazilians among the 10% most vulnerable was 54%. Thus, at the beginning of this century, most of the vulnerable population was included in the labor market, even though informally. However, data from 2022 show that now only 29% of the poorest Brazilians have work.

Our Analysis:

Often, two of the most mentioned reasons that drive people to live on the streets is the loss of income and/or addiction to some drug, legal or illegal. The addiction also takes many of these people to commit petty crimes in order to pay for the drugs. For instance, studies have already revealed an increase in property crimes in areas close to the “Cracolândias”. In addition to targeting pedestrians, thieves may also focus on parts of the public services, like cooper wires, bronze statues etc. Theft of high voltage cables and wires increased by almost 20% between 2018 and 2022 in Rio, according to Light – Rio de Janeiro energy distributor.

Source: O Globo [1], [2], [3]; Folha de SP; Extra.

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