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Problem in securing Rio slums? Announcing police arrival ahead of time.

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(Read caption) A view from the top of the Dona Marta slum, one of several pacified slums, of the southern area of the city in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in this March 3, 2011 file photo.

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More than a year after the military launched a raid to drive drug traffickers out of Complexo do Alemao, a complex of favelas, or slums, in Rio de Janeiro, the neighborhood is set to receive two elite police units.

Military forces invaded Complexo do Alemao in November 2010, in an operation intended to remove the area from criminal rule.

Now, the military says they are again stepping up security measures inside Alemao in anticipation of the arrival of two police pacification units (UPPs) to the neighborhood. The elite military police squad, known as the BOPE, is supposed to lead another security sweep in Alemao starting March 27, in order to clear the area for the UPPs' arrival.

The UPPs are elite police units, set up to bring community policing to Rio de Janeiro neighborhoods that had previously been lawless [See Monitor coverage on UPPs here].

There are currently 19 UPP units in place in the city.

InSight Crime Analysis

During the November 2010 invasion of Alemao, many drug traffickers reportedly escaped the favela complex, fleeing through underground sewers or slipping across a nearby mountain, the Serra da Misericordia. The military told O Globo (in Portuguese) that this year the security forces have prioritized sealing off the Serra, to discourage any remaining drug trafficking gangs from using the same escape route.

However, this does call attention to one of the main shortcomings of Rio de Janeiro's approach to "clearing" and "pacifying" its favelas. When announced ahead of time, it gives powerful drug traffickers the chance to leave the area before the security forces arrive. This means that the authorities can enter a neighborhood with minimum violence, but that the criminals are not apprehended and may simply relocate, or wait for military presence to die down.

Complexo de Alemao is set to receive a total of 12 UPP units, O Globo reports.

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– Elyssa Pachico is a writer for Insight – Organized Crime in the Americas, which provides research, analysis, and investigation of the criminal world throughout the region find all of her research here.

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