Drug Trafficking Reports on the Rise in ‘Pacified’ Rio Favela

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The Rocinha favela complex in Rio de Janeiro has seen 75 percent more reports of drug trafficking so far this year than in the same period in 2011, which could suggest greater cooperation between the community and police units who are occupying the neighborhood.

In the first three months of 2012, Rocinha residents made 312 reports of drug trafficking, compared to 178 for the same period in 2011, according to O Globo. Residents have also reported that there are illicit groups of armed men patrolling the streets.

The neighborhood was invaded by military police in November 2011 to clear the way for a pacifying police unit, (UPP). Days before the operation, police arrested Amigos dos Amigos gang leader Antonio Francisco Bonfim Lopes, alias “Nem,” as he attempted to flee the favela in the trunk of a car.

O Globo reports that 10 people have been killed in Rochinha so far this year, while police engaged in at least three shoot-outs with suspects in the last week.

InSight Crime Analysis

An increase in reports of drug trafficking could point to a higher level of cooperation between the community and the authorities, with the public trusting the police and feeling confident enough to report crime.

However, given the high levels of violence that have been seen in Rocinha this year, these reports could also be a sign of the continued presence of organized crime in the neighborhood despite the military police occupation.

In recent weeks, a community leader set to testify about Nem’s activities was shot to death in the street and a military police corporal from the elite BOPE unit was murdered, the first time a police officer has been killed in a pacified Rio favela. The police invasion of Rocinha and capture of Nem is thought to have upset the balance of power and prompted an outbreak of violence between rival groups, namely the Amigos dos Amigos and Comando Vermelho.

Police are set to double their presence in Rochina with an additional 350 officers.

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