(CNN) – The Olympics are on the horizon, but gold-medalist Fernando Echavarri from Spain is worried about more than rough waters and wind currents. He told CNN he and his team were leaving breakfast when they were robbed at gunpoint by a gang of teenagers.
Echavarri said, “We turn around to see what was happening and we see the pistols like this.”
He thinks thieves are targeting visiting athletes and goes on to say, “You can get robbed in Rio any time of the year, but before the Olympic Games, all these people know it’s the opportunity”
In fact, authorities say robberies and homicides are on the rise in Rio. One man has created a website with that shows the robberies he says he’s filmed from his downtown window. This guy jumps to rob a bus passenger. No one intervenes when this man is tackled for his gold chain. Many videos show young people swarming their targets.
Complicating matters, Rio’s police force has been hit with budget cuts – overtime and benefits have been reduced and officers are quitting, but the state’s security chief says he’s demanding help for the games to ensure the 85,000-strong security detail as promised.
Jose Mariano Beltrame, security secretary in Rio de Janeiro, said, “There’s a need for police officers, he says. We’re going to have to use police from outside the state – we are going to have to ask for help from the army for Olympic venues”
That will allow Rio’s police to focus on securing the city and the impoverished favelas, many still controlled by criminal gangs. In the sprawling Complexo Do Alemao region, more than a dozen favelas cling to the hills, connected by a gondola. We go on patrol with the military police there – who battled their way in back into the areas in 2010.
Shasta Darlington, from Rio de Janeiro, explains,” He’s explaining that when they first came in here to Alemao, it was more than 12 hours straight shootout before they were able to take control from drug traffickers.”
Six years later, police still keep their guard up. Community activists say this year alone, 26 people have been killed or injured in shootouts here – many hit by stray bullets. Pressure is building as the Olympics get closer. Police say it won’t end when the games are over.