RIO DE JANEIRO – A couple walking along this Brazilian metropolis’s iconic Copacabana beach is robbed by a young man who flees and seems to disappear for good into a crowded street, but guards at the Rio de Janeiro Operations Center alert police to the incident and the suspect is in custody within minutes.
A dozen municipal guards have been tasked with monitoring footage from 50 surveillance cameras set up along a six-kilometer (3.7-mile) stretch where 70 percent of petty crime against tourists occurs in this Brazilian metropolis, a security official told EFE.
Jorge Coimbra, operational control director of the Rio de Janeiro Operations Center, said those 12 guards had been specially trained to operate the cameras and alert police to criminal behavior via WhatsApp.
The area under surveillance includes the Leme and Copacabana beaches and a portion of Ipanema beach, popular tourist areas that are overlooked by four of Rio’s best-known hillside “favelas,” or slums: Babilonia, Chapeu-Mangueira, Cantagalo and Pavao-Pavaozinho.
In total, Rio authorities have set up a total of 815 cameras throughout the city – 215 of them installed during last year’s Olympic Games.
That number may climb to 1,500 if cameras installed in privately run establishments are taken into account.
But most of the cameras so far have been used for traffic control and weather alerts.
Coimbra said he became acquainted first-hand with so-called “video patrolling” in 1994 in Barcelona but has had to wait more than two decades to replicate the system in Rio de Janeiro.
Although only 50 cameras are being used in the pilot program, the results so far have been impressive, he told EFE.
“Since we began (the pilot), ‘arrastroes’ (robberies in which gangs target multiple victims and strip them of all their belongings) have disappeared in Arpoador (Ipanema), and every day there are one or more arrests,” Coimbra said.