Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Rio regression

I missed this when it first ran. The new Rio de Janeiro Mayor, Eduardo Paes, who took office on Jan 1, have vowed a Rudy Giuliani-like 'zero tolerance' approach to crime. So where did he start: by harassing and arresting street vendors. The Miami Herald has details. "I've been selling books here for 40 years," said Rubem da Consigao, 71, a wisp of a man whose small folding table held 100 used volumes in the posh Ipanema neighborhood. "Then last week, the police came, said I didn't have a vendor's license, took my books and said they would burn them. This country is full of thieves - if they take the bread from my hand, there is going to be one more."

As always in history, the elites push blame onto peddlers and hawkers. Yet these folks are only small businesspeople trying to earn and survive. If Paes wants to go after the real criminals, he should start with the corrupt police. And with violent criminals. Street vendors actually help keep the city safe. It's the Oscar Newman defensible space theory: The more eyes and ears (meaning people) on the streets, the safer the streets.

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