Rio de Janeiro: Residents benefit from Armed Forces’ crime hotline
By Dialogo May 13, 2014
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – A series of attacks on April 20 and 21 against the Pacification Force in Complexo da Maré culminated in a horrifying scene: A gunman, accompanied with at least one child on a motorcycle, shot at military members who couldn’t return fire since he was protecting himself with a human shield.
Maré, a complex of 15 favelas in Rio de Janeiro’s North Zone, continues to be a hotspot for narco-traffickers after it was occupied by the Brazilian Army and Navy. However, the military has bolstered its fight against crime by improving communication with the about 130,000 who call the complex home.
Disque-Pacificação (3105-9717) is a 24-hour anonymous crime hotline that began operating on April 16 and will be open until the military leaves the area, mirroring the hotline that was established after the 2010 pacification of Complexo do Alemão.
“We began this service so the community could speak with us about any issues, from providing us with information about drug trafficking and organized crime to reporting complaints about excesses on the part of our troops,” said Army Maj. Alberto Horita, a spokesperson for the Pacification Force in Maré. “Of course, we will strive to prevent any excesses. But, if they do occur, we want them to be reported so we can take the appropriate steps.”
During the first 24 hours the hotline was in service, 25 complaints were filed – all of them related to drug trafficking. A small number, perhaps, but the Pacification Force believes it’s a good sign, as the line was started without any publicity.
“The guarantee of anonymity is absolute and residents have no reason to fear calling,” Horita said. “Residents will realize this, see our work and the results of their complaints.”
Disque-Pacificação works in the same way as Disque-Denúncia (2253-1177), a service operated by civil society to aid in the fight against crime.
Disque-Denúncia has received 1,997,082 complaints since its creation in 1995 through March 2014, according to Zeca Borges, the service’s coordinator. Disque-Pacificação will be used more often as more residents realize their reports are taken very seriously by security forces.
“First, you must gain their trust, then you can regain the area,” Borges said. “The important thing in this work is to be open to listening. They have to value what is being said since every call represents a civic act by the caller.”
Borges said Disque-Denúncia also continues to be available to the residents of Complexo da Maré.
“My guidance is to call, always,” Borges added.
Gen. Roberto Escoto, the commander general of the Maré Pacification Force, said it has been harder to restore order to Complexo da Maré because the number of narco-traffickers was larger than initially estimated.
Complexo da Maré is considered a strategic region. In addition to being crossed by the city’s three main highways – Linha Vermelha, Linha Amarela and Avenida Brasil – the complex is next to the international airport and is bordered by the Bay of Guanabara, which makes it easier to traffic drugs and weapons.
Two criminal organizations - Terceiro Comando and Comando Vermelho – and one militia group are operating in the community.
Maré’s residents, who for decades lived under the control of narco-traffickers and criminal groups, hope the arrival of the Police Pacification Units (UPP) represents the start of a better future.
Now, the Pacification Forces hope residents take advantage of the hotline.
“Some trafficking activity remains in Maré so residents fear being identified, no matter how certain they are that the complaint is anonymous,” said professor Edson Diniz, the founder and director of Redes de Desenvolvimento da Maré, a civil society organization that supports community development.
Diniz said the Pacification Force will need to overcome the residents’ fears “of crime and the security forces themselves,” suggesting an ombudsman’s office be created to complement Disque-Pacificação.
“The idea of opening a line of communication is good,” he added. “But residents will trust it enough to participate only after they have seen it put into practice.”