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By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The new Secretary of Public Security of Rio de Janeiro, Roberto Sá, announced on Monday, January 9th, that the state is creating a specialized police force to combat the trafficking of guns in the state. The unit will be called the Arms, Ammunition and Explosives (Disarmament) Unit.

Roberto Sá, Rio's new security secretary
Rio’s new Secretary of Public Security, Roberto Sá, announces the new unit, photo by Pillippe Lima/IMPRENSA RJ.

“We are in a state that has seized at least twenty firearms a day for fifteen years. This is not trivial. Unfortunately, we have a very violent and heavily armed society,” said the secretary.

According to Rio’s Police Chief, Carlos Leba, the unit is expected to be operational in ten days. The unit’s headquarters will be located in the northern part of the capital and will work with similar national and international units.

According to state data between January 2016 and the first week of 2017, the Pacifying Police Units (UPPs) seized 256 weapons in the state. During that time, 155 pistols, 71 revolvers and more than fifteen rifles were found in operations carried out by the police.

Officials say that the new unit should produce analyses that will help “the fight against urban violence in Rio de Janeiro”, focusing on the trafficking of heavy weapons, the expansion of criminal organizations, and the territorial dominance they hold in parts of the state.

The group will work in the locations that were used by security agencies during the World Cup and the Olympics. Although this will start out as a Rio state initiative, the Secretary hopes that security entities from other states and the federal government will join the group.

“We have to start and leave the doors open. The doors are open to federal government institutions,” said Sá in the press conference to announce the group. “Rio de Janeiro deserves this kind of structure. Why should we join forces only in the big events?” he asked.

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