There's good news for visitors to Rio de Janeiro. A recent public opinion survey found that 51 percent of polled residents of Rio, Brazil's major tourist destination, believe that public safety has improved here in the last few months.

Indeed Rio's military police announced that reported crime is down by 15 percent since the Brazilian summer's February peak, when robberies of tourists were widespread and there were several spectacular holdups of beach-front hotels. In the wake of that crime wave, the head of Rio's military police was sacked and replaced by Col. Nilton Cerquiera, a tough veteran of anit-guerrilla warfare of the 1970s.

The new security chief quickly expelled corrupt soliders, enforced anti-drinking rules and placed his 28,000 men in the streets. His most visable weapon has been the unexpected "batida" -- suddenly closing streets without warning to check cars and buses for guns and people without documents.

Recently Cerueira inagurated the first of four 38 fiberglass cabibs and "mini-delegacies" planned for the city's turist and commercial areas. Largely paid for by merchants associations, the open-faced cabins are to be manned by two military policement and elevated two feet off the ground to allow surveillance of pedestrian traffic.