By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A recently released study states the number of reported homicides in Rio’s pacified favelas decreased by approximately 65 percent between the years of 2008, when the city’s Pacifying Police Unit (UPP) first began, and 2012. The data is another strong indicator that the UPP program has been stemming the violence within these communities.
Conducted by the Institute of Public Security (ISP), 22 of the city’s now 36 UPPs were included in the research with only the UPPs that had been in operation for more than a year at the time of the research studied, which means some of the larger favelas like Complexo da Maré were not included.
The results however, showed that among those favelas, not only did the numbers of homicides decrease but in some areas including the favelas of Santa Marta, Chapéu-Mangueira, Babilônia, Tabajaras, Salgueiro, Formiga, Andaraí and Mangueira, zero homicides were reported during the last year.
Additional experts linked the decrease in homicides in the areas to the increase of the community’s property values. Dubbing it the “UPP Effect”, during a seminar organized by the Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) entitled, “Citizenship and Safety – Results and future policy pacification of Rio de Janeiro,” American Benjamin Mandel stated; “We estimate that the ten percent drop in the homicide rate in an area is clear, on average, a 1.8 percent increase in the price of property.”
However, not all of the communities with installed UPPs have positive feedback for the program. Some residents maintain that the statistics do not paint an accurate picture of what is really happening on the streets.
“From what I have seen, nothing has changed,” Rocinha native and operator of Favela Adventures tours, Renato da Silva, better known as Zezinho, tells The Rio Times on December 9th. “In the last four days alone there have been consecutive shootings here.”
Rochina is considered the largest favela in Brazil, and was occupied in November 2011 and the UPP for the community was officially inaugurated almost a year later on September of 2012. Since that time, that community pacification process has undergone difficulties , at times straining relationships between the residents and the police.
Earlier this year, after the disappearance of Rocinha bricklayer Amarildo de Souza, public unrest grew into an outcry demanding answers. Although police initially denied involvement, the public demanded justice and Amarildo was later declared dead with 25 Military Police members accused of torture and involvement in his passing.
“I think in the beginning many people were supportive of the police being here,” says Zezinho, “but people are fed up with the increase of violence and abuses. I don’t see any improvements with the UPP here, just more tensions and conflicts. Every community needs policing, but we want honest, respectful policing.”
In a recent interview with O Globo, Security Secretary José Beltrame said while reviewing the effects of the last five year of the UPP program; “The problem is that people imagined that all slums would be equal to the Dona Marta. Except that there are complexes, like Alemão, that are more populous than the vast majority of municipalities. Police have more difficulty in these rough and super concentrated spaces of people.”
Beltrame acknowledged the problems in the Rochinha favela and emphasised the need for officers and UPPs to have proper training , exemplary punishment and time to “change people’s minds.”
“The issue is that the train can not stop,” said Beltrame. “We have to correct the paths as we move with it. I can not conceive of Rio today without the UPPs, without the relief they have brought. ”