In Lead Up to World Cup, Govt Reports Fall in Murders in ‘Pacified’ Rio Favelas

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Statistics from Rio de Janeiro’s Police Pacification Units (UPP) show a fall in the murder rates in the shantytowns where they have a presence, but some other crimes have increased.

According to statistics released by Brazil’s Institute of Public Security (ISP) and the Pacification Police of Rio de Janeiro Coordination on 30 of the city’s so-called “favelas” where the UPP operate, the number of homicides between 2012 and 2013 dropped 26.5 percent from 36 to 49, reported Folha de São Paulo. Aggravated assault also decreased 14 percent.

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Nevertheless, street theft went up by 7 percent to 213 cases registered in 2013, while car theft rose by 5.8 percent. The number of drug seizures also increased by 23.2 percent.

InSight Crime Analysis

It’s hard to know why some crimes go up while others go down, but for Rio, this could be a good sign. In the best scenario, it means that petty crime is replacing larger criminal operations. In the worst scenario, it is a temporary lull.

The UPPs have been a controversial topic since their inception in 2008. Though welcomed by some, their widespread use of excessive violence has provoked mass protests among citizens and international reprobation. The ISP has also reported that the number of police-related deaths rose 69 percent between 2013 and 2014, while 80 percent of Brazilians would fear torture under arrest, according to Amnesty International.

There have also been steady reports of street crime being on the rise. According to official figures, in 2013 muggings in Rio de Janeiro went up 19 percent compared to the previous year, including a 49 percent rise in tourist areas.

But the pacification project has also been credited with a 65 percent drop in homicides and doing something that no previous program ever had: creating a permanent police presence in the favelas.

Still, there are complaints that there is little to no policing at night. What’s more, as InSight Crime highlighted in a recent report, Brazil has failed to address the social problems at the core of crime. Some critics go further, claiming that the recent boost in the state’s security efforts is merely a public relations stunt ahead of the World Cup.

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