By Chesney Hearst, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Recently released data from the Institute of Public Security (ISP) shows the number of homicides are down in the city of Rio de Janeiro while the number of homicides and other crimes, including reports of rape, have increased elsewhere in the state. The government’s installation of Police Pacification Units (UPPs) in the city of Rio’s favelas is considered as a primary factor in the difference.
The ISP released the data for the month of January 2013 on March 9th, revealing the largest monthly increase in the number of homicides in the state since May 2009. The total number of cases having increased 20.7 percent (from 324 to 391) since the same time period last year.
However, in the city of Rio the number of homicides dropped nine percent (from 123 to 112) in January 2013 compared with the same month last year.
“The UPPs are one of the reasons. But there are others, like additional investments in personnel and equipment (such as police),” sociologist and General Coordinator of the Center for Studies in Crime and Public Safety, Claudio Chaves Beato Filho, told O Globo, adding, “And it is natural that resources are concentrated primarily in the capital.”
The state government’s pacification program began on December 19, 2008 with the first UPP installation in the Santa Marta community. During the four years that followed 29 units more have been established with forces recently occupying the communities of Complexo do Caju as a first step in installing what is planned to be the 31st UPP in the city.
Thus far, the units remain only in the favelas in the city of Rio. During a press conference held after the occupation of Complexo do Caju, State Secretary of Security, José Mariano Beltrame indicated that there were plans for UPPs in other regions including within the city of Niterói, located across the bay from Rio de Janeiro.
“If people think it over, the pacifications are not happening randomly. A plan for Fluminense [outer Rio] and Niterói exists, but I can’t say that we will make a UPP in those places next week,” said Beltrame.
While the increase of crime outside of the city is alarming, a September study found that the inauguration of the UPPs have reduced the rates of violent deaths in the favela communities, such as homicides and deaths in encounters with policemen and during home robberies, by up to 78 percent. The study further found that deaths in encounters with policemen have fallen by an notable 98 percent.
Parallel to this decrease in violent crimes and deaths, the study found that there has been an increase in violent non-lethal acts. Threats increase from 29.4 to 99 per 100,000 inhabitants, while rape indices went from 1.3 to 4.8 and domestic violence shot up from 27 to 84.6.
The Laboratory’s head researcher, Ignacio Cano, thinks there are two potential explanations for this parallel rise in violence. Prior to the UPP operations, the favelas functioned as a parallel society where the “lei do morro” (law of the favela) was sovereign and brutally enforced by the druglord in charge.
In the absence of that enforcement, it could either be that crimes have increased or that crime reporting has increased, since the crimes which were previously only reported to the druglord are now being reported to the police.