Police Replace Army in Key Rio Favelas, as Pacification Advances

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The Brazilian Army has handed control of several neighborhoods in a Rio de Janeiro favela adjoining Complexo do Alemao to military police, in a step towards installing elite commmunity policing units known as UPPs.

Some 300 members of the Rio de Janeiro State Military Police were set to relieve the army in the neighborhoods of Chatuba, Morro da Fe, and Morro do Sereno, all in the Complexo da Penha community in the city’s North Zone, on Thursday, R7 reported. According to O Dia Online, police also took over the the Caixa’d’Agua neighborhood.

The army took control of these neighborhoods in November 2010.

Now, military police from units including the elite Special Operations Battalion (BOPE) and the Shock Battalion will prepare the communities for the installation of Pacifying Police Units (UPPs) by hunting down traffickers are still operating in these neighborhoods. The UPPs are being inserted into Rio neighborhoods as part of a plan to seize control of areas formerly run by militias and drug traffickers, first by sending in the army to secure the area, and then inserting UPPs trained in community policing techniques. They carry out high-visibility street patrols and encourage residents to report crimes.

This process follows recent similar handovers in the nearby Complexo do Alemao, where army units have been replaced by at least 1,200 police officers, reported O Dia. UPPs have been installed in four Alemao neighborhoods.

Together, Complexo do Alemão and the neighboring Complexo da Penha are set to receive a total of eight UPPs by the end of June, O Dia reported.

According to O Dia, the Pacifying Police Command (CPP), which coordinates the city’s UPPs, is set to move in early July from its location in the city center to a base in Complexo do Alemao.

InSight Crime Analysis

Complexo do Alemao and the surrounding area is mostly territory of the Red Command (Comando Vermelho). The group, perhaps Rio’s largest drug trafficking gang, is a major player in the city’s booming crack trade, and its current leaders, Elias Pereira da Silva (“Crazy Elias”), and Marcio dos Santos Nepomuceno (“Marcinho VP”), both imprisoned, have divided the Alemao-Penha area between them, according to news site iG. Crazy Elias is currently in control of the Penha favelas, while Marcinho VP dominates the Alemao neighborhoods, according to the report.

This division of territory may be an attempt to shore up the Command’s power as the police prepare to insert UPPs into the area. Traffickers often continue to sell drugs in UPP-occupied communities, but they must operate with increased discretion; this may have necessitated the clearer division of territory described in iG’s report.

The placement of the UPP’s coordinating command in Alemao, a sector of the city infamous for violence by both drug traffickers and the police, is a symbolically important gesture.

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