Rio de Janeiro • Violent protests a year ago during a warm-up tournament for the World Cup caught everyone by surprise, including police and troops who struggled daily to contain them.
Tear gas wafted into the Maracana stadium during the Confederations Cup final between Brazil and Spain, and police and soldiers clashed with protesters just a few hundred meters (yards) from the Rio venue.
Social problems and rising prices that set off the protests a year ago still linger. Brazil will deploy hundreds of thousands of police, soldiers and security guards around the 12 venues, and up and down its long border with 10 other South American countries.
Here’s a look at the general security and crime picture with the World Cup just a month away.
TROOPS, POLICE, AIR AND SEA
Brazil will deploy about 150,000 troops and police in the 12 cities — and an added 20,000 security guards. In addition, about 10,000 specially trained elite riot troops will be available. Last week Brazil also assigned 30,000 army, navy and air force troops to secure its 17,000-kilometers (10,600-mile) border against drug trafficking and smuggling.
Brazil has received training from several countries in dealing with crowd control. Brazilian officials have said the United States has contributed, as have France, Britain, Japan, Canada and Germany.
"We have cases of violence in our cities, violence with social origins, common crime, robberies," Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo has said. "We are trying to contain this. We know our country may be harmed when this violence is seen by the world, as would any country where violence exists."
RIO BEEFS UP
In Rio, about 2,000 extra police have been put on the streets a month before the kickoff. Authorities were not planning to beef up until just before the June 12 kickoff.
"We’ve really perceived an increase in crimes. We’ve seen a gradual increase since the second half of last year," Rio state security head Jose Beltrame said.
In March, muggings in the area around the Maracana doubled when compared to the same month the previous year, according to an analysis of police statistics from the O Globo newspaper.
The Maracana will play host to seven World Cup matches including the final on July 13.
Additionally, police and drug gangs in recent months have engaged in several sharp exchanges of gunfire in several so-called "pacified" shantytowns around the city. Some of the fiercest fights have taken place in a slum located just one block from tourist-favorite Copacabana beach.
ROBBERY AND ASSAULT BIGGEST THREAT
The Brazilian government this week quietly cut its estimates of foreign World Cup visitors in half, from 600,000 to 300,000. Another 3 million locals are expected for the matches, but fewer outsiders may reduce the crime problem.
The biggest threats to most fans will be robbery and assault. Security around the stadiums is sure to be robust, but police may be stretched thin in other areas of the cities. Tourists could be inviting targets in hotel and entertainment areas.
Much of the crime takes place around the cities’ favelas or shantytowns, home to about 20 percent of Rio de Janeiro’s population.Next Page >
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.