South America

Rio to test facial-recognition cameras to combat street crime during Carnival


Authorities are stepping up the fight against crime at the annual carnival which draws 2 million revellers each day.

Rio de Janeiro plans to test a facial-recognition system during its famed Carnival as part of the city's campaign to fight crime, the head of the regional police force said.

Rogerio Figueiredo, the new head of Rio de Janeiro's state police, said in an interview published Monday by the O Globo newspaper that cameras deployed with the technology will scan both faces and car licence plates.

It will be operational in Rio's tourist hotspot of Copacabana in the beginning of March, when this year's Carnival takes place.

Rio Carnival
The technology will operate in the tourist hotspot of Copacabana.

"If (the cameras) identify an individual under an arrest warrant, or if a stolen vehicle drives through the area, an alert will be sent to the closest police car," Figueiredo said.

"It's a fantastic tool. It's time that the police modernise."

Mass robberies

Rio, which hosted the 2016 Olympic Games, has long suffered from street crime, with exchanges of gunfire common between drug-dealing gangs and police.

Last year's Carnival was marred by numerous crimes in tourist areas, especially close to the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema.

Television images showed groups of youths carrying out mass robberies by running into crowds and taking possessions by force.

Shortly after that Carnival, former president Michel Temer signed a decree controversially putting Rio's security forces under military control until the end of the year.

With new anti-crime president Jair Bolsonaro installed January 1 and ally Wilson Witzel taking over as Rio's governor, local authorities are poised to take a hard line on crime.

Witzel, for instance, has evoked using police snipers to kill armed suspects, even if they are not directly threatening anyone with their weapon.

Reports say the governor is also looking to acquire Israeli surveillance drones that are capable of firing on suspected drug gang members.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch