By Benjamin Parkin, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – José Mariano Beltrame, the Rio de Janeiro Security Secretary announced the inauguration of several new Police Pacifying Units (UPPs) across the Baixada Fluminense, Niterói and São Gonçalvo in the coming months. It is expected that there will be three UPPs set up in the Baixada Fluminense, three in São Gonçalvo, and one in Niterói, though the specific locations are unknown.
The new proposal for UPPs across Niterói, São Gonçalvo and the Baixada Fluminense is a response to the significant rise in crime and homicide rates across these areas. Figures released by the Instituto de Segurança Pública (ISP) show a 27 percent rise in homicides in Niterói and a 28 percent rise in the Baixada Fluminense, from January 2012 to September 2013.
Beltrame made the announcement on Friday, January 24th, and when asked about Niterói, said that “the time of Niterói has arrived, [the residents] are also citizens who also suffer from violence.” He continued, “If we have a project that has more positive than negative results, why not take this to areas that also suffer with the issue of crime?”
This marks a significant expansion of the number of UPPs across Rio, currently at 36 units. The announcement was made just over a week before an increase in violence in the Complexo do Alemão, in Rio’s Zona Norte (North Zone), where a UPP officer was shot and killed.
UPPs have yielded significant results so far, with murder rates in pacified favelas for two years or more at 8.7 per 100,000 inhabitants; as low as a third of the national average. However, the increasing murder rates in other areas in and around Rio are often attributed to a destabilization created by the arrival of gangs escaping favelas with UPPs.
This new announcement marks a change in the government’s plans, for it had previously been announced that Complexo da Maré, also in Rio’s Zona Norte, would be the next to be receive UPPs. Maré has been the subject of public attention due to a similar recent rise in violence.
Beltrame stated “when the time for Maré comes, we will do Maré as well.” However, it is doubtful that Maré will be pacified before the World Cup, something many had expected, due to the lack of available UPP officers. Maré is situated between the Linha Vermelha and Avenida Brasil, and is on the route from the airport to Centro, therefore placing it in a strategic location for the city.
Previously pacified favelas, with the exception of Jardim Batam in the Zona Oeste (West Zone), have been situated around the Zona Sul 9South Zone) or locations with more tourism such as Barra and the Maracanã stadium. This has led to the criticism that the UPPs are simply designed for security and control because of the visibility of the upcoming mega-events.
However, the proposed inauguration of UPPs in the Baixada Fluminense, Niterói and São Gonçalvo marks a significant geographical expansion of the UPPs away from these centers. Resident of Niterói, engineer Rafael, 24, said, “The situation is getting more violent. The new UPPs will be good, as they will help to better the current situation.”
The UPPs are police units developed especially for Rio’s favelas, which have traditionally not had police based within them. These pacification police units were designed to bring police into closer proximity with the communities, in order to undermine the power of gangs and militias, reducing violence.