By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A new app named “Nós por Nós” (Us for Us), which was created by the Fórum de Juventudes – the collective Youth Forum – and launched on March 21st in Rio de Janeiro to help residents report misconduct by police authorities, has already had 500 downloads and forty incidents recorded in twenty days.
One of the few things more infamous than favela communities in Rio is the police corruption and use of excessive violence, and this new tool is meant to give a voice to the underrepresented residents of the city.
With the application, victims or witnesses can report on arbitrary arrests, staged or manufactured crime scenes, random humiliations and other violations committed by police in Rio’s favelas. With the Nós por Nós app, complaints can be sent by text, image and video, with guaranteed anonymity.
One of the project coordinators, the historian Fransérgio Goulart, who for fourteen years has lived in the community of Manguinhos, in the Zona Norte (North Zone), told government new sources that the demand and the number of reports has been surprising.
“The tool has contributed to the discussion of how the witness protection program does not work [here], the institutional racism, the difference in how the police act in the favelas and in the south [Zona Sul/South Zone]. These discussions empower the youth,” said Goulart,
So far, according to the application’s organizers, most accounts reported reflect the abuse of power, home invasions, torture, murder and violence against women. About eighty percent of the complaints are against military police (policiais militares), followed by reports against civil police (policiais civis).
The tool also proved effective in speeding up the process of contact with the support network. “We did reporting before, but with the application responses are much faster. We had complaints that arrived immediately, which sped up the support network and enabled quick answers as the expertise and assistance to victims of family members, especially with the work of the Public Defender’s Office,” Goulart adds.
Ky Adderley, an American expatriate living in Rio for years as an education and sports consultant, and co-founder of NGO PlayLife, shares his support for the app. “This app looks to provide a voice for a group of people who traditionally have not had one.”
Adding, “I am glad to see this development as in general the worldwide reporting of police brutality is necessary as too often incidents go unreported out of fear of retaliation or simply fall onto deaf ears. Social media is helping us to keep our world and the authority figures who have abused power in check.”
In addition to the application creators and advocates within the communities, approximately 25 young people help to organize the project for the Youth Forum, which also has the support of the Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analyses (IBASE) and non-governmental organizations Witness, Justiça Global, Amnesty International and the State Public Defender.
The public defender and coordinator of the Center for Human Rights, Fábio Amado expects more partners to join the cause to end impunity for crimes committed against the underprivileged black youth. “In addition to the involvement of residents, who suffer violence, it is also necessary to raise awareness of new players we can trust, both from the public sector as the private sector, to expand the network and go beyond the complaint and get all the possible means to suppress, prevent or minimize the damage.”
In 2013 it was reported that the military police in Rio de Janeiro are Brazil’s most corrupt police force, according to the National Victimization Survey, commissioned by the Ministry of Justice and the United Nations Program for Development. The study also showed that the state of Rio is subject to more crime than the rest of the entire Southeast region, including São Paulo.
The IBGE (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatistica) released its 2010 census which reported that 22.03 percent of the 6,323,037 residents of Rio de Janeiro live in favelas, or ‘substandard’ and irregular housing communities. The growth of favela population was 27.65 percent in ten years, in marked contrast to the rest of the city, which saw only 3.4 percent growth of population.