By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Pacifying Police Units (UPPs) of Rocinha, Fé/Sereno, Providência and Batan are promoting free holiday camps during the month of January, with the aim of promoting integration between the police and the community, according to government news sources.
With schools on summer break, while the state’s financial crisis cutting security measures and increasing crime statistics, these programs are more important than ever.
The holiday camps are provided to youths divided into groups between the ages of 6 and 14, and involve educational, cultural and recreational activities, as well as tours monitored by the policiais militares (PM or military police).
Authorities report that in the last year, 7,738 children, adolescents, adults and the elderly have benefited from these programs. Currently, 142 PMs are involved in developing 124 projects, according to government news sources.
Spokesperson for the Polícia de Proximidade, Major Bianca da Silva, explained, “The police officers involved in these programs are volunteers. They do it out of love and care. This is a differential for these children and adolescents. To occupy our minds and to go beyond is our motto.”
At the Rocinha UPP, the program will run until Friday (January 13th) and will take thirty children to the Aerospace Museum, Gávea Planetarium, Copacabana Fort, Navy Museum, Bope headquarters and Police Museum. There are also visits to AquaRio, Corcovado (Christ the Redeemer statue) and Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf).
The holiday village Amiguinhos da Paz (Friends of Peace), organized by UPP Fé/Sereno, takes place at the headquarters of the unit between the 16th and 20th of this month, with activities and snacks for fifty children in the community. On January 18th, there will be a Stand Up Paddle course, a kayak tour and a trail at Praia Vermelha in Urca; On the 19th, a visit to the cinema; and on January 20th, amusement park ride.
Until January 20th, the UPP of Providência promotes trips to Praia Vermelha and Horto waterfalls. At UPP Batan, the children visited the Jardim Botânico (Botanical Garden) and took part in cooking workshops. The culinary activities will be held at the UPP itself for thirty children until Friday (January 13th).
While many critics point to an unraveling of the UPP program, increased gang violence and reports of brutal police tactics, a FGV survey released last July shows 75.8 percent of favela residents with Pacifying Police Units (UPPs) want the program to continue.
Since 2008, the UPP program has provided various services, such as police and transportation to favela communities that were long-neglected. The results of the program have been mixed, with some studies showing decreases in crime in UPP areas.