Rio Gangs Prohibit Crack Sales to Avoid Police Clean-Up

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Drug traffickers have banned the sale of crack cocaine in three of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, in an apparent attempt to discourage a police clean-up that suggests the city’s security strategy is bearing fruit.

On June 20, Brazil’s O Globo reported that gangs in the Rio favela of Jacarezinho had posted signs (pictured) which prohibited the sale of crack in the community (see English version of the article on Rio Radar). The ban also applied to the neighboring slums of Mandela and Manguinhos.

Antonio Carlos Costa, head of local community organization Rio de Paz, told the newspaper that the decision was made because of the toll that crack addiction had taken on the neighborhoods.

Police, however, believed that the move was motivated more by self-interest than community solidarity, reported O Globo. Rio authorities have been stepping up efforts to clean up so-called “cracolandias” (favelas where crack use is highly prevalent) in recent months, sending security forces to the areas in order to rein in criminal activity.

As such, the prohibition on crack sales could have been designed to deter law enforcement from the area, so that local drug traffickers could carry on selling other drugs that attract less attention, and continue criminal activities like extortion.

InSight Crime Analysis

Even if the cynicism of O Globo’s police sources is accurate, the crack ban is likely still a positive development for security in Rio. If drug trafficking organizations are taking it upon themselves to limit their activity even in areas where crackdowns have not been implemented, this could be a sign of the effectiveness of the city’s security strategy.

Rio is currently implementing a security push that involves targeting certain favelas with an invasion by security forces, followed by the long-term presence of Pacifying Police Units (UPPs) trained in community policing. The program earned some mixed praise from Human Rights Watch this month. The human rights watchdog said the scheme had the potential to lower violence, but said that complaints of abuses committed by police, including extrajudicial killings, were still not properly addressed by Rio authorities.

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