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Killing in the Slums: Social Order, Criminal Governance, and Police Violence in Rio de Janeiro

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 February 2020

Stanford University
University of Michigan
Stanford University
*Beatriz Magaloni, Professor, Department of Political Science, Stanford University,
Edgar Franco-Vivanco, NCID postdoctoral fellow and MIDAS fellow, University of Michigan,
Vanessa Melo, Graduate Student, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles,


State interventions against organized criminal groups (OCGs) sometimes work to improve security, but often exacerbate violence. To understand why, this article offers a theory about criminal governance in five types of criminal regimes—Insurgent, Bandit, Symbiotic, Predatory, and Split. These differ according to whether criminal groups confront or collude with state actors, abuse or cooperate with the community, and hold a monopoly or contest territory with rival OCGs. Police interventions in these criminal regimes pose different challenges and are associated with markedly different local security outcomes. We provide evidence of this theory by using a multimethod research design combining quasi-experimental statistical analyses, automated text analysis, extensive qualitative research, and a large-N survey in the context of Rio de Janeiro’s “Pacifying Police Units” (UPPs), which sought to reclaim control of the favelas from criminal organizations.

Research Article
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2020 

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We thank residents of Rio’s favelas, whose identity will be kept anonymous, for trusting us to share their experiences. We also thank Mayor Leonardo Nogueira, Colonel Paulo Henrique, Secretary Mariano Beltrame, Colonel Alexandre Leite, Captain Luis Augusto, Terine Husek Coelho, Jose Luiz de Souza Lima, Jailson de Souza, Eliana Souza, Mariluce Mariá de Souza, Cleber Araújo dos Santos, and Marcus Faustini. We thank comments from Robert Blair, Carles Boix, Alberto Diaz-Cayeros, Jonathan Furszyfer, Dorothy Kronick, Horacio Larreguy, Jonathan Mummolo, Luis Rodriguez, Gustavo Robles, Sarah Thomson, Harold Trinkunas, Cesar Vargas, and Alice Wang. We thank the Military Police, the Secretary of Security, and Disque Denuncia for sharing valuable data with us. We thank Veriene Melo, who conducted many interviews with us, and Stephanie Giménez, who facilitated initial exploratory work. We acknowledge Stanford’s Global Development Project and the Institute for Research in the Social Sciences for financial support. Replication files are available at the American Political Science Review Dataverse:



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