Heads of police replaced in Brazil's largest city

AP News
Posted: Nov 26, 2012 4:57 PM

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The chiefs of police in Sao Paulo were replaced on Monday as Brazil's largest city emerged from a bloody weekend and authorities struggled to contain a wave of violence that has doubled the murder rate in recent months.

Sao Paulo state security chief Fernando Grella, who took over the job four days ago, replaced the chiefs of the civil and military branches of the police and vowed to work closely with police, put more officers in the streets of Sao Paulo and investigate every murder.

There will be daily meetings among the heads of police departments, Grella said in a prepared statement, explaining the goal of this close collaboration is to develop strategies to combat the wave of violence that has rocked the massive city for months now.

"We're going to work intensely to reverse the homicide rate in the state to what it was months ago," he said. "We are not discarding any measures."

The murder rate has risen for months. October saw 150 murders — a 92 percent jump from October 2011. The violence continued the weekend following Grella's appointment. According to the newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo, 15 people were shot to death on Saturday and Sunday.

The deaths include execution-style killings of civilians and police officers, many them by hooded men on motorcycles. In the first nine months of this year, 94 police officers were killed in Sao Paulo, most of them off duty. A total of 982 homicides took place in the city during this time.

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Investigators have said the police murders are being orchestrated from behind prison walls by leaders of a group called the First Capital Command, Brazil's strongest, best organized criminal gang. Security experts say the PCC, as they're known because of their Portuguese initials, is likely lashing out after the government started to transfer gang leaders out of state and crack down on drug sales in the city's outskirts.

Working from within Sao Paulo state prisons, the group organized several waves of attacks on police, government buildings, banks and public buses in 2006. Those assaults and counterattacks by police resulted in at least 175 deaths, including police officers, dealers and innocent bystanders.