UPPs Reduce Violent Deaths by 78 Percent

By Julia Averbuck, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A study released by the Laboratório de Análise de Violência (Laboratory for the Analysis of Violence) at UERJ (University of the State of Rio de Janeiro) found that the inauguration of the UPPs (Police Pacification Units) have reduced the rates of violent deaths, such as homicides and deaths in encounters with policemen and during home robberies, by up to 78 percent.

Rocinha’s UPP (the 28th in Rio) was inaugurated September 20th, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News

Rocinha’s UPP (the 28th in Rio) was inaugurated September 20th, photo by Erica Ramallho/Imprensa RJ.

This can be translated to about 250 lives saved since the establishment of the first UPP in Santa Marta on December 19, 2008. The study further found that deaths in encounters with policemen have fallen by a whopping 98 percent.

Additionally, the decreases were found to be unrelated to the number of policemen per inhabitant in the favelas. This shows that the UPP’s effectiveness is not related to the sheer size of the operations, but to the change in the style of policing, which went from confrontational to community action based.

Parallel to this decrease in violent crimes and deaths, the study found that there has been an increase in violent non-lethal acts. Threats increase from 29.4 to 99 per 100,000 inhabitants, while rape indices went from 1.3 to 4.8 and domestic violence shot up from 27 to 84.6.

The Laboratory’s head researcher, Ignacio Cano, thinks there are two potential explanations for this parallel rise in violence. Prior to the UPP operations, the favelas functioned as a parallel society where the “lei do morro” (law of the favela) was sovereign and brutally enforced by the druglord in charge.

In the absence of that enforcement, it could either be that crimes have increased or that crime reporting has increased, since the crimes which were previously only reported to the druglord are now being reported to the police.

The statistical models used by UERJ used criminality indicators from January 2006 to June 2011 for analysis. As a result, none of the 2012 information has been accounted for, including the results of the pacification of both the Vidigal and Rocinha communities.

While Vidigal received its UPP unit in January of this year, Rocinha’s UPP was inaugurated this past Thursday (September 20th). The event was attended by Rio’s governor, Sergio Cabral, the state’s secretary for security, José Mariano Beltrame, and the UPP Captain, Rogério Seabra.

Policemen at the Rocinha UPP inauguration, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News

Policemen at the Rocinha UPP inauguration, photo by Tânia Rego for Agência Brasil.

This is the 28th UPP and the largest one so far, with 700 policemen working in the unit. This UPP will also count on the installation of one hundred cameras, which are not installed yet, and the use of motorcycles, of which twelve are already in use as of Thursday. These additional methods have been added since 92.5 percent of the favela cannot be patrolled in a four-wheel vehicle.

The operation will be headquartered at the Ecological Park, at the very top of Rocinha, and will also count on eight advanced stations spread throughout the community. Rocinha spans just over 840,000 square meters and has therefore been split into 25 subareas to facilitate operations. As of Thursday however, only three bases had been installed and the operation was working mostly out of four temporary containers at the Ecological Park.

The head of the Rocinha UPP will be Major Edson Santos, who has been in charge of Rocinha operations since March. According to Santos, “the biggest challenge will be convincing the inhabitants that Rocinha is theirs [the inhabitant's] to enjoy, and not owned by the police.”

Since the initial occupation of Rocinha in November of 2011, thirteen homicides have been registered in the community, of which twelve were this year. Two of the homicides were of policemen, and one took place last week. If Rocinha follows the trend of the other pacified communities however, this number is expected to decrease substantially over the next year.

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