Rio university suffers rash of express kidnappings

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) –


Students and staff at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro are calling for help after a rash of express kidnappings, where assailants briefly detain their victim while carrying out a robbery.

In the latest episode, a student on the university's enormous Fundao science campus in northern Rio was grabbed Monday and forced to sit for several minutes in a car while she had her bag, telephone and computer taken.

Three days earlier, two professors at the same campus, which is near the international airport, were taken to a favela neighborhood and held there for 11 hours with their eyes blindfolded.

They told police that they had their car, phones and computer stolen. They were also forced to give their credit card pin codes to the thieves, who made about $10,600 in purchases.

In a statement, the rector of the university called this "a brutal and inadmissible crime on a campus."

The Fundao campus sprawls across an area close to the Mare and Alemao favelas, poor neighborhoods that criminal gangs turn into virtual no-go areas for the police.

The rector asked for increased security, saying that only one patrol consisting of two officers was deployed in outdoor areas, while private security officers guard the interiors.

Without reinforcements, the university "will remain vulnerable to criminal organizations," he said in an interview Tuesday with Jornal do Brasil.

Professor Celso Caruso Neves told G1 news site that "just in my institute six people were kidnapped last year. It's reached the point where we are all waiting our turn. It's Russian roulette."

Security in Rio de Janeiro has been on a steady slide since the end of the 2016 Olympic Games. In February, President Michel Temer put the army in charge of the outgunned, underfunded police force.