The apps keeping Rio’s residents safe from stray bullets

Julia Borges was at her cousin’s twelfth celebration when she was shot. The 17-year-old had been standing on a third-floor balcony when a stray bullet hit her within the again, lodging within the muscle between her lungs and aorta.

That was November 8. Fortunately, Borges was taken to hospital and has since recovered. Many will not be so lucky. Not less than 106 individuals have been killed by stray bullets in Rio this yr thus far.

Among the many most harmful areas are the slender streets of the town’s favelas, the place greater than one million individuals at present dwell. Right here, the homes are piled up on one another, and the alleys that wind between them are dotted with small squares. These identical streets often echo with the sounds of gunfire: shooutouts between police and drug traffickers, rival teams of traffickers, and even police-backed militias happen each day.

Harmless victims are sometimes caught within the crossfire. In lots of circumstances residents should lie on the floor or create barricades to cover from stray bullets as they await a truce. In 2019, Rio noticed an average of 26 shootings a day. Issues have cooled barely for the reason that pandemic started, however there was nonetheless a median of 14 shootings daily up till the top of June. Round 1,500 individuals are shot lifeless in Rio’s metropolitan space yearly.

Dwelling in Rio is like “being a hostage to violence,” says Rafael César, who lives within the neighborhood of Cordovil, west of the town. 

A screenshot of Fogo Cruzado


Like many residents, César has began utilizing apps to assist preserve himself secure. These crowdsourced apps assist customers preserve monitor of harmful zones on their approach residence and let residents warn others about which areas to keep away from. 

One of the vital widespread apps, Fogo Cruzado, was began by a journalist named Cecilia Olliveira. She had deliberate to do a narrative about victims of stray bullets within the metropolis, however the info she wanted was not accessible. So in 2016 she arrange a Google Docs spreadsheet to gather details about shootings, logging the place and once they occurred, what number of victims there have been, and extra. In 2018, with the assistance of Amnesty Worldwide, the spreadsheet was became an app and a database to assist these monitoring and reporting on armed violence. The app has been downloaded over 250,000 instances and covers each Rio and Recife.

A person who hears gunshots can log it as an incident on the app. The data is verified and cross-checked by the Fogo Cruzado crew with the help of a community of activists and volunteers after which uploaded to the platform, triggering a notification for customers. Fogo Cruzado additionally has a crew of trusted collaborators who can immediately add info with out such vetting. Customers can subscribe to obtain updates each time they’re heading towards a zone thought of harmful—equivalent to a favela that’s recognized to have had latest shootings, or one that’s at present contested by gangs. 

Fogo Cruzado is utilized by native residents who’re planning on leaving residence to work or must verify if it’s secure to return afterwards, says Olliveira. 

“I began utilizing the Fogo Cruzado as a result of there have been frequent police operations in a area I used to be passing by means of daily,” says journalist Bruno de Blasi. He says that WhatsApp teams have been filled with rumors and false stories of shootings, so he determined to make use of the app as a technique to “keep away from pointless scares.”  

Like many within the metropolis, he has had his personal expertise of being near a shootout. He remembers one which started on the road the place he lives. 

“The sensation was horrible, particularly as a result of that road was thought of one of many most secure and quietest within the neighborhood, which can be the place the police battalion is,” he says. “All of a sudden I needed to keep away from the window of my very own room due to the chance of a stray bullet. It was very tense.”

Fogo Cruzado has additionally labored with a lot of different organizations to create a brand new map of armed groups in Rio de Janeiro. The map, which was launched in October, is designed to maintain the town’s residents updated about which areas are at present dominated by felony factions or police militias and are subsequently much less more likely to be secure.

Different apps additionally acquire information on shootings, however Fogo Cruzado is among the few to be up to date by the general public, says Renê Silva, editor of the web site Voz das Comunidades (Voice of the Communities), which covers the Complexo do Alemão, a big group of favelas in Rio. “There are locations the place the app identifies shootings that don’t come out within the media,” he says.

The app Onde Tem Tiroteio (The place There’s Taking pictures) works in the same approach.  It was initially created in January 2016 by 4 pals as a Fb web page. Whereas Fogo Cruzado focuses on the metropolitan area of Rio, Onde Tem Tiroteio(OTT) covers your entire state—and since 2018, it has lined the state of São Paulo too. It differs from Fogo Cruzada in that it lets the community of customers double-check the veracity of capturing stories.

funeral of Matheus Lessa
Family and pals carry the coffin of 22-year-old Matheus Lessa who was shot lifeless when he tried to defend his mom throughout an assault at their family-owned retailer in Rio de Janeiro


When you obtain the OTT app you’ll be able to select what you need to obtain alerts about, whether or not it’s shootings, floods, or demonstrations. Every nameless report is reviewed by a community of greater than 7,000 volunteers on the bottom and confirmed earlier than being uploaded to the app. Weekly stories are additionally launched to the press. Greater than 4.7 million individuals used the app final yr, in keeping with Dennis Coli, considered one of OTT’s cofounders.

“OTT-Brasil’s predominant mission is to take away all residents from organized gang looting routes, false police blitzes, and stray bullets, with info that’s collected, analysed, and disseminated in a really brief time period,” he says.

The apps have a political angle, too. In addition to conserving Rio’s residents out of hazard, they will help researchers and public establishments perceive patterns of violence—and assist put stress on politicians.

They “serve primarily to attract consideration to the dimension of the issue,” says Pablo Ortellado, a professor of public coverage administration on the College of São Paulo. For him, such apps have “a particular however key perform of accelerating the stress on the authorities.”

Certainly, Recife was chosen because the second metropolis for the Fogo Cruzado app not solely due to its excessive charges of violence but in addition as a result of, Olliveira says, the state authorities had stopped releasing information and had began censoring journalists. “Earlier than, there was wonderful entry to public safety information, however the information steadily turned scarce and the work of the press turned increasingly more troublesome,” she says.

On this approach, information assortment apps will help problem the data offered by governments, says Yasodara Córdova, an MPA/Edward S. Mason Fellow on the Harvard Kennedy Faculty in Massachusetts.

Up to now, the state had a monopoly on official info, however at present issues have modified, she says. “It’s wholesome to take care of redundant databases, collected by lively communities, in order that information could be challenged so as to preserve the civic area open and world.”

Felipe Luciano, an OTT person from São Gonçalo, a metropolis close to Rio, agrees. “The hot button is belief,” he says. “What motivated me to make use of OTT is the credibility of the data posted there. I really feel safer utilizing it.”

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