The PCC is blamed for killing almost 100 police officers this year in what is the latest round of a rivalry war stretching back more than a decade. According to official records in May 2006 around 500 people, overwhelmingly civilian, died in 12 days after the gang attacked the police. The murder of dozens of officers provoked a spate of police killing civilians in poor neighborhoods in revenge, according to human rights groups.
The latest upsurge of violence seems to have been sparked by the killing of six gang members by São Paulo’s elite Rota police unit in May. The PCC has retaliated for that action by targeting police officers across the city and rogue elements within police units are countering this with further violence. But, again, civilians are bearing the brunt of the gunfire.
“What happens when a police officer is killed in São Paulo?” asks Guaracy Mingardi, one of Brazil’s leading criminologists. “If the case is not solved rapidly his colleagues will go out for revenge. This is why we have seen a revival in death squads after several years of decline.”
“Normally they kill those they consider suspects in one way or another,” Mr. Mingardi says. “Not suspects in the killing of their colleague but people they suspect of being criminals.”