Robson Rodrigues – BID Sin Miedos Blog, 12/9/2013
Rio de Janeiro’s Police Pacification Units (UPP) are celebrating their fifth year in 2013. They do so with generally positive approval ratings from the media and society as a whole. A recent study by Instituto Data Favela indicates that 75 percent of favelas inhabitants approve of the UPPs. Notwithstanding major crises and criticism, the UPP constitute the single most important public security initiative in the state. And yet the persistent informality of the UPP may eventually undermine its sustainability.
Since their inception, the UPP have enabled an unprecedented reclamation of territory in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Many of the areas where the 34 UPPs were installed had once been dominated by heavily armed criminal groups. According to the Secretaria de Estado de Segurança Pública do Rio de Janeiro — SESEG (Rio de Janeiro State Public Security Department), there are 34 UPPs today, with some 8,591 officers, covering approximately 231 communities. Citizens who were terrorized by a war-like environment now experience a more normalized and stable routine. Many residents have the necessary confidence required to live more productive lives.
A principle achievement of the UPP initiative is the way it dramatically reduced the intentional homicide rate in Rio de Janeiro. Newly installed UPPs are especially effective at preventing violence generated by the confrontation between the police and armed groups. And while suffering from some “displacement” effects, the trend downward is inescapable.