Rio steps up pacification drive in city's biggest slum

Brazilian authorities stepped up a pacification drive in Rio's largest shantytown Thursday, nearly doubling the police presence in a hillside favela overlooking the city's most famous beaches.

The move, part of a strategy to stamp out crime and restore security ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics, was the second phase of a drive that began in November when helicopter-backed forces swept into Rocinha to clear out drug gangs.

"The re-conquest is permanent," said Colonel Rogerio Seabra, who is coordinating the pacification effort. "We are not going to spare any efforts and we are determined to establish proximity with the people of Brazil's biggest favela."

From Thursday on, a 700-strong Pacific Police Unit, or UPP, will establish a permanent presence in Rocinha, whose 70,000 people live on a hillside wedged between two of Rio's wealthiest neighborhoods.

They are replacing a 400-man force that has been patrolling the slum since November's sweep, aimed at breaking the hold of violent drug gangs over the area.

Violence has been reduced and drug traffickers no longer carry weapons in the streets, according to residents, although 12 murders have been recorded so far this year.

Police said the new UPP will try to establish relationships with residents, whose help is seen as crucial to combat crime.

So far, authorities have deployed 28 of the UPPs in 175 local communities, with 6,770 agents, according to military police statistics.

Authorities plan to deploy 40 UPPs by 2014.

Paramilitary police personnel patrol an alley during a raid at Rocinha shanty town in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on September 14. Brazilian authorities stepped up a pacification drive in Rio's largest shantytown Thursday, nearly doubling the police presence in a hillside favela overlooking the city's most famous beaches.

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