Militia overtakes drug traffickers and controls more than half of Rio’s territory

Research shows that the armed group controls 58.6% of the city and need to be confronted by authorities

Translated by: Ítalo Piva

Brasil de Fato | Rio de Janeiro |
The militia now controls 58.6% of the city of Rio de Janeiro - Arquivo/ Agência Brasil

The amount of territory controlled by the militia in Rio de Janeiro, has surpassed that of drug traffickers. The armed group controls 58.6% of the city. The data comes from joint research done by the New Illegal Activities Study Group (GENI/UFF), by the Crossfire data lab, by the Center for Studies on Violence of the University of São Paulo, the digital news platform Pista, and by the Crime Tip hotline – based on tips received in 2019.

All together, the study which maps the activities of armed groups in Rio de Janeiro, analyzed 38.887 crime tips, which were narrowed down to 10.206 after a triage process. According to Daniel Hirata, a sociology professor and GENI/UFF coordinator, the report gives authorities and researchers an important outline they may use to comprehend what’s behind the advancement of paramilitaries in the city.

“The militia already occupies more land than drug traffickers, and this has a lot to do with their business model, the centralized extortion market, the flexibility of activities they engage in, on the margins of legality and illegality, as well as the acceptance of and sometimes aid from public entities”, he explained to Brasil de Fato.


In order to determine which area is under the control of an armed group, a “glossary” of terms present in the tips the hotline received was created, then, three criteria were used to further understand these same terms: territorial control, social control and market activities. A combination of these criteria allowed for researchers to determine if certain areas were controlled by drug factions or by the militia.

In the instances where different armed groups were present in the same territory, researchers determined through the amount of tips received which groups held sway or if the area was “disputed”.

The publishing of the study this past Monday, October 19th, amid an electoral campaign, seeks to shed light on the matter within the political sphere, and showcase the urgency with which effective measures to combat the militia are needed. 

“There are non-violent measures that can contribute a lot in the fight against the militia, like regulating the real estate and public transportation market. Regulating the markets is fundamental in combating the militia, because repressive policies were already inefficient in the fight against drug traffickers, and they are even less so in the fight against the militia”, concluded Hirata.

Edited by: Mariana Pitasse