Surveillance cameras in the favelas (3): the other side
As my collaborator in Rio de Janeiro, Paola Barreto Leblanc, points out to me, it isn’t just the police (see previous posts here and here) who have been installing surveillance cameras in the favelas. Accoring to UOL, in September 2008, the military police found a whole clandestine CCTV system of 12 cameras, and a control room hidden behind a false wall, in Parada de Lucas, a favela in the Zona Norte of the city. The cameras covered all the entrances to the favela. The system was allegedly operated by a drug-trafficking gang but since the room was, according to the reports, destroyed in the police attack, and no one was captured, it is hard to verify the story… however it is not surprising that a major illegal commercial operation would seek to have early warning of police (and other gang) raids in this way. Indeed, this system may well have been the reason why no traficantes were caught in the raid in question. From the interview we did earlier in the year, it seems clear that the favelas have intense human surveillance systems of mutual observation, whether they are gang-controlled, community-controlled or police-‘pacified’ morros. Very little goes on in the crowded informal settlements that almost everyone will not know about. Of course, the nature of the power-structure within the favela will determine to whose benefit such knowledge works. CCTV in a context like this can be seen as a sign of insecurity and weakness. Perhaps the Parada de Lucas gang felt that they were losing their grip, and the cameras in Santa Marta installed by the military police certainly seem to indicate a lack of trust in the community and the civil pacification measures – investment, infrastructure development, regular meetings and confidence-building – so far undertaken.