By Patricia Maresch, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The inhabitants of the Complexo do Alemão and Vila Cruzeiro are starting to believe in a brighter future. But it is a delicate process, as many residents have filed complaints of abuse committed by police during the new occupation.
Since the takeover of the area, police officers are going door-to-door in search of drugs, weapons and drug-trafficking related properties.
“You can’t leave your home unattended. There has to be someone present, because if there’s no one to open the door, the police will force themselves into your house and ransack the place,” says 27-year-old Ana from Vila Cruzeiro.
“It’s kind of weird around here now, with the drug traffickers gone and the police in control. Not that I mind, I’m just not used to it, that’s all,” she adds.
A public prosecutor is collecting citizen’s complaints in a special Ônibus da Cidadania (Citizens Bus) that is parked outside the favela Grota at the Complexo do Alemão. Prosecutor Darci Burlandi has received tens of complaints from favela-dwellers about irregular conduct of police officers.
Home-owners have accused police officers of taking money, air conditioners, television sets and computers from their houses. “When my daughter told them we didn’t buy our television with drug money, the officer called her a whore and told her to shut up. They threw everything on the floor and took our valuables with them,” says a woman who wants to remain anonymous.
The prosecutor thinks that police officers should wear name tags. “This way inhabitants know who is in their homes. When something happens they can file a correct complaint. Now all they have is a description of the officer: ‘ a short guy with brown hair’ for example.”
“It’s hard for us to find the officers responsible for the mishaps this way, therefore we feel that the police have to commit to the basic requirements of identification“ says prosecutor Burlandi. “Members of the police force who misbehave have to be punished, “she continues. “If not, it will be very difficult for the government to continue improving this area.”
For the past 25 years, the Comando Vermelho has been calling the shots in the Complexo do Alemão and Vila Cruzeiro. Their outlaw-law was the only law. “We have been living with fear forever,” says 17-year-old Rafael from Vila Cruzeiro. “I don’t even know what it’s like not living under the law of the CV. It will take time for us to get used to this new way of life, this freedom,” he explains.
Favela Grota-resident Ernesto thinks police corruption won’t disappear overnight either. “You think it’s normal that the police say they seized tons of drugs, hundreds of weapons and ammunition but no word on the money they found?”, he asks. While adding: “Did the drug traffickers take all of their cash with them on the run?”, while he raises one eyebrow.
Fellow resident Flávia who listened in nods her head and says: “Fears and doubts still exist, but overall we have high hopes on finally living in peace as honest citizens of Rio and having a dignified life. That’s it, right?” she smiles.