efe-epaRio de Janeiro

Some 3,700 Brazilian soldiers, with the support of the police, launched an operation Wednesday against organized crime in several Rio de Janeiro favelas (shantytowns).

The operation is part of a military intervention ordered by President Michel Temer in February, which gave the military control of law enforcement and public safety in Rio de Janeiro, a state that is in the midst a wave of violence that caused 6,732 homicides in 2017.

Wednesday's operation took place in Lins de Vasconcelos, in northern Rio, as well as in the communities of Pavao-Pavaozinho, Cantagalo, Babilonia and Chapeu Mangueira, in the southern part of the state capital, the Eastern Military Command said in a statement.

The favelas in southern Rio where the operation was launched are near spots frequented by tourists, such as Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, the army said.

Soldiers have encircled the favelas, dismantled illegal barricades and set up road blocks in search for people wanted for crimes.

Soldiers and police were assisted by armored vehicles and surveillance aircraft.

Police and army operations have intensified in Rio during the last few weeks, although the results of these operations are often limited, with few criminals being arrested and some illegal weapons and drugs being seized.

In addition, the presence of the army has not helped avoid notably violent incidents, including the fatal shooting in March of city councilwoman Marielle Franco, an outspoken critic of the military intervention.

The investigation on the shooting of Franco is ongoing and no suspects have yet been arrested.

In fact, violence increased in the first four months since the military intervention was launched, as the number of shootings rose 36 percent.