Thursday, 8 May 2014

Organised crime in SP; The ethics of the PCC and why they are here to stay

Graham Denyer Willis wrote an interesting article for the Boston Review this week.

In it he provides an insight into some of the organisational structure of the Primeiro Comando do Capital (PCC), the largest organised crime gang in the country and the one which controls the city and much of the state of São Paulo. Willis invested considerable time shadowing police officers in São Paulo and was granted access to internal PCC documents which are occasionally found when a member is detained or houses/vehicles are searched.

There are a number of interesting observations, some of which are real eye openers to those unfamiliar with the highly structured way the PCC maintains a firm background presence in the city.

Carandiru prison
The first point made is that ironically the PCC, like many other criminal organisations, was born out of the state’s inadequacies. That doesn’t mean that the state police was not hard enough on criminal gangs. To the contrary, the seed was in the lack of basic provisions supplied to prisoners, the lack of care and the violation of human rights most notably in the Carandiru massacre which was the direct reason for the formation of the PCC. By failing to provide a minimum standards of public care, São Paulo gave an opportunity for the creation of an organisation which was willing to fulfil this role.

Having developed at pace since Carandiru, the range of “services” provided by the PCC to its members (known as “brothers”) is astonishing. It includes, but is not limited to, free transport for family prison visits, legal aid provided by a team of standby lawyers, the covering of all funeral costs in the event of the death of a brother, banking services through an internal cash loan service and perhaps most worrying of all an weapons bank for the temporary loan of a pistol or a machine gun.

The PCC has a gun loaning service
However, these services come with certain obligations. One of the standout characteristics of organised mafias and gangs is their strict moral codes and the  PCC is no exception. Rules exist over repayment of loans, which types of guns are permitted for certain types of needs, when murder is allowed (it must be pre-authorised by the leadership) and when it isn’t (the PCC does not allow children to be killed, for example) and they are strictly enforced. Therefore ethics as well as behaviour is dictated and there are spreadsheets which track all member activity in detail.

As Denyer Willis puts it, under the PCC rule “crime is at once a practice, an occupation, and an identity”. This serves to fuel loyalty but also to bind together a group which stretches far and wide across the country and depends on working collectively from both inside prison and out. The existence of principles also justifies its existence and is self-reinforcing in the face of what is perceived as a corrupt and often unjust public police force and justice system.

In a previous post we saw that one of the reasons for the dramatic drop in homicide rates in São Paulo is the PCC’s impact in the poorer suburbs and, as the PCC are “at least as concerned with safety and security as they are with making money”, it would seem difficult to imagine their dissolution or loss of power, in the near future.

Read the full article here on the Boston Review
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