Brazil is stamping out favela violence – now on to trash collection and education
Brazil's first impact study on its Police Pacification Units reveals that the program has significantly reduced violence, but still needs extensive reform.
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At 227 pages, the study is a long read. But it’s a worthwhile investment because the numbers and analysis basically demonstrate that UPPs are pacifying the police and strengthening their institutional role in society. Because of UPPs, police killings are significantly down. Inside and near UPP favelas, this is the single most significant factor in reduced lethal violence. In addition, UPPs may lead cariocas to feel more compelled to report non-violent crime than they did before.Skip to next paragraph
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Another reason the study is a must-read are the excerpts from interviews carried out with favela residents, community leaders and police from a variety of levels of the hierarchy. This qualitative data provides valuable windows to the changes under way in Rio. For example, pacification has allowed some favela residents not only to come and go freely in their own communities, but also to at last visit those formerly belonging to “enemy” factions. The interviews also shed useful light on topics such as funk dances and mototaxis, both murky areas of conflict between UPP police and favela residents.
Pacification was undertaken with a reasonable amount of planning, described in this two-year-old Piauí magazine article. It has achieved so much. But, says the study, the model needs further development. From some of the police interviews and from press reports and unfolding events, it’s become clear that the program is in many respects rather slapdash. Last week the first UPP officer was shot dead, wearing a not-so-bulletproof-vest and working in a container as an operational base. Later, other officers complained that the donated rifles they used to defend themselves against the attack, allegedly undertaken by drug traffickers, had jammed.
Of course pacification is a pioneering effort, bumping up against many unexpected challenges and outcomes, and so must be flexible. But it seems the time has come to buck the Brazilian penchant for improvisation.
Fifty years in five? Or six?
No large-scale impact study of the Social UPP has been undertaken or is under way. It’s quite a bit easier to quantify violent deaths than to measure social needs and how much they’re being met – not least of all because live people have conversations.
“Dialogue with results is possible, and is a continuous exercise,” Ricardo Henriques told RioRealblog on one of his last days on the job. Knowing how to listen critically he added, is key. Job training for youth was a top demand in one pacified favela, for example, but it turned out the area did have job training, with empty classrooms. “It’s a question of matching, of information flow. You have to have a lot of information about a community,” he says.
As Mr. Henriques spoke, Gustavo Ferreira, responsible for the Social UPP’s Fast Participatory Mapping of UPP Favelas, swiveled a computer screen and brought up a Google Map-based product of the program’s 11 field teams in 20 territories. Work began a year ago, with the help of consultant Francesco di Villarosa. The teams take photographs, make observations and interview residents, leaders, NGO agents, and public service providers. Results change constantly and are analyzed so as to pass on demands to agencies who can and should be meeting them. The Social UPP also works with NGOs and the private sector.
Among other data, the maps show which parts of favelas are at risk for mudslides and the like. Most impressive are the photos of contemporary housing that looks like something out of the film Black Orpheus. Not all favela homes today are made of brick and cement.