Julia Borges was at her cousin’s twelfth birthday 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 usually are not so lucky. At the least 106 folks have been killed by stray bullets in Rio this yr to date.

Among the many most harmful areas are the slender streets of town’s favelas, the place greater than 1,000,000 folks at the moment reside. 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 recurrently 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 instances 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 because the pandemic started, however there was nonetheless a mean of 14 shootings day-after-day up till the top of June. Round 1,500 persons 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 town. 

screenshot of FogoCruzado app
A screenshot of Fogo Cruzado


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

Probably the most common 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 out there. 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 become an app and a database to assist these monitoring and reporting on armed violence. The app has been downloaded over 250,000 occasions and covers each Rio and Recife.

A consumer 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 every time they’re heading towards a zone thought-about harmful—reminiscent of a favela that’s recognized to have had latest shootings, or one that’s at the moment contested by gangs. 

Fogo Cruzado is utilized by native residents who’re planning on leaving residence to work or have to test if it’s protected 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 day-after-day,” says journalist Bruno de Blasi. He says that WhatsApp teams have been filled with rumors and false reviews of shootings, so he determined to make use of the app as a approach 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 avenue was thought-about one of many most secure and quietest within the neighborhood, which can also be the place the police battalion is,” he says. “Immediately I needed to avoid the window of my very own room due to the danger of a stray bullet. It was very tense.”

Fogo Cruzado has additionally labored with a variety 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 town’s residents updated about which areas are at the moment dominated by felony factions or police militias and are subsequently much less prone to be protected.

Different apps additionally gather knowledge on shootings, however Fogo Cruzado is likely one of 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 Capturing) works in an identical approach.  It was initially created in January 2016 by 4 associates as a Fb web page. Whereas Fogo Cruzado focuses on the metropolitan area of Rio, Onde Tem Tiroteio(OTT) covers the complete 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 taking pictures reviews.

funeral of Matheus Lessa
Family members and associates 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 reviews are additionally launched to the press. Greater than 4.7 million folks used the app final yr, in line with Dennis Coli, certainly one of OTT’s cofounders.

“OTT-Brasil’s major 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 might 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 knowledge and had began censoring journalists. “Earlier than, there was wonderful entry to public safety knowledge, however the knowledge steadily grew to become scarce and the work of the press grew to become increasingly troublesome,” she says.

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

Up to now, the state had a monopoly on official info, however as we speak issues have modified, she says. “It’s wholesome to take care of redundant databases, collected by lively communities, in order that knowledge could be challenged in an effort to hold the civic area open and international.”

Felipe Luciano, an OTT consumer from São Gonçalo, a metropolis close to Rio, agrees. “The secret’s 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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