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'Zero Tolerance' comes to Brazil

Rio authorities are rolling out a crime-fighting plan that mirrors policies Rudy Giuliani used in New York and Mexico City.

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His stepmother beat him, so Aluizio Pereira fled for the streets.

Three years later, the scrawny 13-year-old still sleeps on the sidewalk along Ipanema Beach, begging for handouts in the shadows of the luxury hotels that dominate the upscale neighborhood.

But to some, Aluizio is more than just a reminder of a grim social reality. In this divided city, he represents a threat to public security and - thanks to former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani - the police are working to clear him, and others like him, off the streets.

Fed up with a growing climate of urban disorder, Rio police have declared a new war against the city's minor offenders - and they credit Mr. Giuliani for the idea.

Following Giuliani's assumption that public disorder leads to serious crime, Rio's new Zero Tolerance program targets the city's petty criminals. It increases the number of beachside surveillance cameras and radio-patrol police; cracks down on unlicensed vendors, petty thieves, and unruly motorists; and intensifies arrests of the self-appointed attendants who coerce motorists to pay for free parking.

With the program's expansion in April, the focus has turned to reducing Rio's street population by discouraging beggars' encampments and placing street children in shelters. While proponents of Zero Tolerance believe the measures will help improve the quality of life and reduce overall crime, others fear the program unfairly targets the city's poor and vulnerable.

After reading a news story years ago about Giuliani's crime plan, which the ex-mayor credits for the vast drop in New York crime in the 1990s, Copacabana Military Police Chief Col. Celso Nogueira concluded that the strategy was well-suited to the densely populated, heavily touristed neighborhood. This isn't the first time Giuliani's methods have come to Latin America. In 2003, the ex-mayor was paid a $4.3 million consulting fee to create a citywide crime program in Mexico City, recommending stiffer penalties and similar crackdowns on minor offenses.

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