Signs of tension between state and city government
In headlining this long and very open interview with state Public Safety Secretary José Mariano Beltrame, O Dia newspaper emphasized the state’s decision to use off-duty military police officers to increase police coverage and bring down crime in Rio’s bedroom suburbs. But the piece is full of new information, especially if you read just a bit between the lines.
“Social actions don’t have the speed nor the effectiveness that I think they ought to, to provide social underpinnings after a police intervention,” he told O Dia. Beltrame made the same complaint over a year ago, and it sounds like nothing has changed.
One thing that’s changed– could it be as a result of Beltrame’s pressure?– is that the Social UPP program is in the process of gaining new leadership. In August, current municipal Finance Secretary Eduarda de la Rocque will take over the presidency of the Pereira Passos Institute (which runs the Social UPP) from Ricardo Henriques, who’ll move on to the Unibanco Institute, in São Paulo. De la Rocque has no experience with urban social issues, but she certainly gets things done. In less than two years she turned around the city’s finances to the point where Moody’s rated Rio at “investment grade” level, in December 2011. At the recent Rio Investors Day, she proposed creating a fund to pull the private sector into a more intense partnership with the city, to meet social needs.
José Marcelo Zacchi, Social UPP coordinator under Henriques, recently left that post to join the team at the IETS thinktank, which focuses on urban issues. Tiago Borba has replaced him. Both Henriques and Zacchi have told RioRealblog that their departures are simply about career opportunities; the leadership transition to de la Rocque couldn’t be friendlier.
Beltrame said that the city seems to have adequate educational coverage, at least in terms of numbers of schools. But he pointed to job training as key for favela residents, saying they often aren’t aware of the world beyond where they live.
“Even when programs exist, they don’t always meet needs,” he added. “In City of God, for example, there is the Rio 2016 Project for children, offered by the [state] Sports and Leisure Secretariat. Four hundred children participate, with a thousand on a waiting list for sports activities.”
Transportation is an issue, too
Beltrame also noted that urban density isn’t tracked suffficiently. This is the job of the municipal Housing Secretariat. Secretary Jorge Bittar has come under fire from urban activists for a lack of organization, and poor communication and attention to human rights when it comes to urban relocation. RioRealblog has heard rumors that if current mayor Eduardo Paes is reelected in the October municipal election (a likely outcome), Bittar will be asked to leave. His secretariat has also seen long delays in the execution of the forty winning projects in the 2010-2011 Morar Carioca architectural contest.
Brazilian Architects’ Institute president Sérgio Magalhaes– who conceived and ran the contest– may replace him.
Asked if new housing growth policies have kept up with public safety policy, Beltrame said that housing programs must exist, but that what he needs, technically, are density numbers. “If we don’t know about population growth in particular areas, we’ll be sure to come up against a police deficit in these regions at some point. If we have 5,000 people in a housing program and there isn’t adequate transportation for them, chances increase that militias or other clandestine groups will create alternative transportation.”
He said he’s asked city hall for density numbers and has gotten no response.
City hall is overwhelmed not only with this week’s Rio + 20 UN environmental conference, with an estimated 50,000 visitors and pressure on the city’s capacity to provide transportation, public safety, sanitation and lodging (with thousands bedding down in the Sambadrome and under tents at the Quinta da Boa Vista), but with ongoing everyday work.
“The Housing Secretariat doesn’t have enough trained people to keep up with the forty Morar Carioca projects,” said an architect familiar with the program, which intends to bring all of Rio’s 700 to 1,000 favelas up to standard code by 2020.
O Dia asked Beltrame if the new police overtime policy will help in the fight against militias. Though the paper’s question seems to have implied that the additional income might keep off-duty police officers away from militia activity (they are its core), Beltrame answered that additional policing always helps in the fight against crime.
At a recent lunch with foreign journalists, Beltrame noted that complicated intelligence work (done by the Civil Police) is key to bringing down these paramilitary gangs. The closest thing Rio has to organized crime, militias create networks involving vans, bottled gas, videopoker machines, “taxes” on home rental and purchase, protection, extortion, and politicians. But Brazil’s penal code has no specific law against such groups, which makes going after them more difficult than arresting drug traffickers. “It’s hard to arrest an off-duty armed police officer simply doing militia security work,” he said.
Militias predominate in Rio’s West Zone, and also in the very bedroom communities where Beltrame plans to pay off-duty cops overtime to increase police presence. They’ll have the chance to more than double their base monthly salary– a mere US$ 812 equivalent.
- In the West Zone’s Campo Grande, “We went after the center [of the militia], we arrested important people, but the social part wasn’t provided. Do police have to stay there, checking up on cable TV, gas, water, internet signals, buses? I’m saying this, otherwise people say we aren’t fighting the militias, that it’s a public safety issue. In the same way, if we go into Jacaré [favela] and it’s just the police there, we’re fated to fail.”
- Beltrame says he sees evidence of favela growth, particularly in the South Zone. “My main concern is what can happen in the future. I want to see what happens in ten to fifteen years. You can’t wait ten years to plan, until you have census data,” he warned.
- Many observers think that police pacification units are causing crime to migrate. “In the South Zone we had people arrested who were from the [unpacified] Jacaré favela. In Niterói [the city across the bay from Rio], of 400 arrests, 30 were from Rio. You can’t say there’s no migration, but it’s small. It’s more about opportunity, the ease that exists in some areas,” Beltrame told O Dia.
- About weapons and munition, Beltrame suggested the creation of a national investigative force. “I need information from manufacturers about who is buying, the origin. But it’s not available,” he complained.
- In Beltrame’s opinion, not even half of what needs to be done has been accomplished. But the secretary said he’s left “a structure” for his successor, which includes the soon-to-open Integrated Center for Command Control, the Police City, the Military Police Center for Special Operations, new installations for the state Public Safety Secretariat (now housed above Rio’s train station), and the acquisition of cameras to track about 2,000 police cars.
- By 2014 at least forty police pacification units will be installed, and Beltrame hopes that Rio will be at ten to twelve homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. Today the rate is 24; Rio has seen a high of 6o and the rate was 40 when he took up his post five and a half years ago. There are 23 police pacification units now, with four coming soon in the Complexo da Penha and one in Rocinha.
- Rio state has a murder investigation resolution rate of from 30% to 32%. Beltrame’s goal is 100%, and he says that scientific police techniques are on the way. The rate was from four to five percent when he took office. A Human Rights Watch report released June 14 said that Rio must work harder to investigate police killings.
- Last but not least, he said he has no political plans, and wants to retire at the end of Governor Sérgio Cabral’s second term in 2014, so he can watch at least one of his three children grow up.