UPPs Drive Criminals From Rio’s Favelas Ahead of 2014 FIFA World Cup
By Dialogo June 17, 2013
RIO DE JANEIRO — Residents of the sprawling shantytowns known as favelas that surround Rio de Janeiro have benefitted from a dramatic drop in drug-related violence and street crime since the establishment of a comprehensive policing program known as Police Pacification Units [Unidades de Policia Pacificadora, or UPP] five years ago, authorities said.
“There’s no possibility of a backlash now from criminals. We work to improve services to provide security for the population,” said Pedro Dantas, a spokesman for Rio de Janeiro’s public safety department.
The UPP program, now operating in 221 communities throughout Rio, has benefitted 1.5 million inhabitants with the goal of restoring control in urban areas that not long ago were gripped by drug-trafficking gangs.
The idea is also to gain the trust of local residents as Brazil prepares to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
The program may soon be extended to cover an additional 860,000 residents living in favelas north and west of the city, as well as in Baixada Fluminense and in towns with a high urban concentration, said the Public Security Secretary’s press office.
As recently as 2008, inhabitants of Rio’s favelas were trapped by crossfire on a daily basis, living in fear as drug lords ruled their neighborhoods and gangs took to the streets to fight for territory. No sense of order seemed to exist.
UPPs could involve 12,500 officers by 2014
Looking for answers, José Mariano Beltrame — secretary of Rio’s public security department — and Rio de Janeiro’s state governor, Sergio Cabral, turned to Colombia.
That country’s success in bringing down the incidence of crime in big cities like Bogotá and Medellín convinced Beltrame and Cabral to introduce a similar system for Rio de Janeiro.
In late 2008, authorities established the first UPP in Santa Marta, gradually expanding to 33 other communities such as Complexo do Alemão, which at one point was considered the epicentre of criminal activity.
The peacekeeping initiative follows a series of stages that begins with the elite force known as Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais (BOPE). Sweeping the favela, BOPE troops arrest criminals, seizing weapons and drugs in the process. Once the favela is “pacified,” authorities then establish a permanent community policing force in the area.
The decision to set up a UPP is based on information as well as an investigation into the criminal profile of gangs that run a specific favela, Dante said. Officers are selected from the Military Police Academy and receive specialized training such as conflict prevention.
As of the end of April, the UPP has involved 8,360 police officers — a figure expected to climb to 12,500 by 2014, said the public security office.
Favela residents now more ‘trustful’
So far, police have established 32 UPPs; another eight more are planned by next year. These, along with the modernization and integration of civil and military police, have helped bring down Rio’s homicide rate by 32.2 percent since 2006.
“The single most important change associated with life under the UPP is that residents can now move about the favela much more freely,” said a World Bank report issued in January.
The introduction of UPPs has opened up a “space for the imagination of daily life in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro that is not dictated by the powers of the drug trade,” the report said.
Dantas agreed, noting that favela residents now feel more “trustful” — and in some cases are even offering the UPPs tips on where to find stashes of drugs or firearms. At the same time, he said, police have noticed an increasing acceptance of their presence by local residents.
“The goal of the Public Security Secretary is to occupy every area controlled by gangs that use war weapons to control residents’ lives,” Dantas said. “In places where the UPPs have been around for a longer period of time, the general mood among residents is that life has improved a lot … A new virtuous cycle has gained strength.”
What the Press Liaison for the State Secretary of Security did not say is that this occupation did not lead to the arrest of a single criminal. All of the communities were forewarned days in advance of the occupation and the implementation of the UPPs (Pacifying Police Units). The criminals had time to move into the shantytowns controlled by the same factions. Life has become a veritable hell for residents of these peripheral areas. The idea that the violence is over is a lie. Trafficking continues in the occupied areas and just a few days ago a German was shot in ROCINHA, as he was "visiting". We need to feel sorry for the tourists who come to this Cup. The government (regardless of color) creates the police entity "that performs miracles". The "fantastic results" are measured through another entity also of the government and then the media is used to spread the results. At the end, crime has virtually decreased, but the reality is that the country is a disaster. The roots of the problem, such as social decomposition, lack of education, family disintegration, irresponsible parenthood, police corruption, drug trafficking....will remain there, because you cannot order change, you have to work on it for many years. the intelligent menâ€™s games are almost ready, we should wait to play A great civilization is not destroyed from the outside until it destroys itself from the inside