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Pacifying Police Units, the new face of the Rio police

06-01-2011 14:14 BJT

RIO DE JANEIRO, May 31 (Xinhua) -- Teenager boys riding stolen motorcycles and wielding heavy combat rifles with the ease and experience of battle-hardened soldiers -- the scene, commonplace in many Rio shantytowns, is becoming a memory to the residents of the Complexo do Alemao and Penha slums, in the suburbs of the city.

Six months ago, both shantytowns underwent a "hostile takeover". In an unprecedented massive operation, hundreds of policemen, aided by army troops, armored vehicles and helicopters, made a sweep over the shantytowns, widely regarded as high-risk areas, home to a powerful drug gang and a booming car and bike theft ring.

The operation was the culmination of a larger project, launched by Rio's Public Security Secretariat in 2008: the Pacifying Police Units (UPPs). The units, which are said to have changed the face of Rio's police, represent an abrupt shift in the manner of dealing with the heavily-armed drug gangs, which dominate parts of the city.

Prior to the launch of the UPPs, police raids in Rio's shantytowns had been sporadic. Officers went in, arrested criminals or seized drugs and weapons, and left.

The advent of the UPPs represents a change: the police will not leave when their mission has been completed. A contingent of officers always remains at the site, making it harder for drug gangs to bounce back.

The project, headed by Public Security Secretary Jose Mariano Beltrame, was initially confronted with distrust. Critics said that the number of arrests was much below expected and that the UPPs merely promoted a reallocation of criminals, who left their shantytowns but kept committing crimes in other neighborhoods.

Editor:Wang Xiaomei |Source: Xinhua

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