Why some Rio residents yearn for an iron-fisted druglord(Read article summary)
After the police occupation of a large Rio de Janeiro favela last year, there is a new spike in crime, the result of poor police coordination, says guest blogger Julia Michaels.
Victor R. Caivano/AP
â€˘ A version of this post ran on the author's blog, riorealblog.com.Â The views expressed are the author's own.
The day after Rocinhaâ€™s police occupation last November, O Globo newspaper announced to the world on its front page that Rocinha Ă© nossa, Rocinha is ours. However, it seems that several other groups are contesting ownership of Â the South Zoneâ€™s largest and most visible favela, or slum, with an estimated population of 200,000.
According to press reports, two drug gangs are fighting over the territory, up for grabs since druglord Nem was arrested while hiding in the trunk of a car, also last November. Thatâ€™s the explanation for most of the eight murders that have taken place since occupation. Robberies are also on the rise. Such crime hasnâ€™t been seen in other pacified favelas, though there have been problems with police corruption and community relations.
Rocinha doesnâ€™t yet have a UPP, or police pacification unit. Each of the cityâ€™s nineteen units have been installed only after a territory is fully in control of the Rio police â€“ certainly not the case here. Given the crime spike, some residents yearn for the return of an iron-fisted druglord.
Yet the state government is far from allowing a return to the past. This week State Public Safety Secretary JosĂ© Mariano Beltrame announced that 130 new recruits will intern in Rocinha, bringing more manpower to an additional 40-man contingent and swelling the total force there to 350. Most are meant to carry out foot patrols in the favelaâ€™s alleyways.
Beltrame also named a military police commander (in Portuguese) responsible solely for Rocinha.
But the Rio police might do well to extend to Rocinha the level of technological intelligence and coordination reportedlyÂ now being utilized in Complexo to AlemĂŁo (in Portuguese), another troublesome territory. Only last week did the military police begin taking over AlemĂŁo from the Brazilian Army, which backÂ in November 2010 hadÂ invaded the complex of favelas, in response to a series of vehicle torchings that terrorized the city.
There areÂ already some cameras installed in Rocinha. Even better intelligence â€“ and possibly, intelligence sharing â€“ could help nail whatÂ this weekâ€™s Veja newsmagazine says is the real reason why Rocinha still isnâ€™t â€śoursâ€ť:
A document produced by the Civil Police Intelligence Unit, dated February 15 of this year, is as succinct as it is shocking in its revelations. In the hands of the Rio Secretariat of Public Safety, which is investigating its contents, the dossier raises suspicions that once again, police are collaborating with criminals in exchange for a substantial â€śtipâ€ť. Item four of the ten-topic, two-page report, to which VejaÂ had access, provides the probable sums. The â€śdown paymentâ€ť is said to be 200,000 reais (almost 120,000 dollars equivalent). And the monthly payments to military police, according to the document, come to 80,000 reais. In exchange for this, the police are said to be staying out of the alleyways, and keeping watch only over the larger byways that cut across the favela.Â
Tensions between Rioâ€™s civil (intelligence) police and its military (patrolling) police are reportedly running high (in Portuguese), as one might imagine, given whatÂ Veja published.
As long ago as the 1990s, when anthropologist Luiz Eduardo Soares was in Beltrameâ€™s job, during Governor Anthony Garotinhoâ€™s first term, it was clear that having more than one police force was problematic. In addition to the state-wide military and civil police forces, the city of Rio also has traffic police (CET), and a Municipal Guard. The state of Rio also has highway police and then there is Brazilâ€™s FBI, the Federal Police. Oh, donâ€™t forget the forest police (who have helped out with occupation (in Portuguese)).
In 2009, Beltrame created Integrated Public Safety Regions, or RISPs (in Portuguese), by way of the Portuguese acronym. These have been instrumental in bringing down crime, since the state is now divided up into regions in which civil and military police units are jointly responsible for crime reduction goals.
This year the military police force also instituted a new police academy curriculum, with a focus on reduced police corruption and violence.
Some security and police experts say the RISPs arenâ€™t enough to foster true coordination, planning and evaluation â€“ i.e. effective policing. They suggest more radical institutional change.Â What happens next in Rocinha may determine how necessary that is.
And Rocinha constitutes only one of several enormous territorial challenges facing security officials. In addition to the ongoing military police handover of AlemĂŁo, Complexo da MarĂ©, Jacarezinho and Manguinhos are high on Beltrameâ€™s to-do list.
â€“ Julia Michaels, a long-time resident of Brazil, writes the blog Rio Real, which she describes as a constructive and critical view of Rio de Janeiroâ€™s ongoing transformation.
Get daily or weekly updates from CSMonitor.com delivered to your inbox. Sign up today.