Rio mayor criticizes police after high-profile crime

Rio de Janeiro's Mayor Eduardo Paes, pictured on May 14, 2016, is on the defensive a month before the Olympic Games opening ceremony (AFP Photo/Yasuyoshi Chiba) (AFP/File)

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) - Rio's mayor, Eduardo Paes, on Saturday harshly criticized what he called a lack of police leadership in efforts to fight rampant crime a month before the city hosts the Olympic Games.

Referring to the hijacking on Friday of a newly arrived shipment of German television equipment to be used at the Olympics, Paes said the police need to work harder.

"I respect the police force. I think they lack leadership," he said on Globo television.

"I think there needs to be leadership in the state, someone to say 'Come on, let's take action, let's work,'" he said.

"People need to have security," he said. "I think it has gone beyond the limits. There's a lack of minimal leadership."

The truckload of equipment for Germany's ARD and ZDF television was hijacked shortly after importation on Friday as the goods were being driven through the Olympic host city. The stolen goods, worth about $445,000, were recovered the same day.

Rio will become the first South American city in history to host the Olympics on August 5. However, there are growing fears about the ability of police to control crime during the event.

There were 1,715 murders in Rio de Janeiro state just between January and April, up 15 percent on the same period last year. Non-lethal crimes like street robberies are also on the rise.

Police mounted street protests last week, saying that they have not been fully paid for months as Rio state's budget hovers on the edge of bankruptcy.

The federal government, already tackling the worst recession in Brazil for decades, has delivered an emergency bailout to the state, which is also struggling to pay staff at hospitals.