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 very least 106 individuals have been killed by stray bullets in Rio this 12 months up to now.

Among the many most harmful areas are the slender streets of town’s favelas, the place greater than 1,000,000 individuals 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 similar streets frequently 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 ground or create barricades to cover from stray bullets as they await a truce. In 2019, Rio noticed an common of 20 shootings a day. Issues have cooled barely because the pandemic started, however there was nonetheless a median of 14 shootings day by day up till the top of June. Round 1,500 persons are shot useless 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. 

A screenshot of Fogo Cruzado


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

One of the crucial common apps, Fogo Cruzado (Cross Fireplace), 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 data she wanted was not obtainable. So in 2016 she arrange a Google Docs spreadsheet to gather details about shootings, logging the place and after they occurred, what number of victims there have been, and extra. That very same 12 months, with the assistance of Amnesty Worldwide, the spreadsheet was was 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 person who hears gunshots can log it as an incident on the app. The knowledge is verified and cross-checked by the Fogo Cruzado staff 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 staff of trusted collaborators who can immediately add data with out such vetting. Customers can subscribe to obtain updates every time they’re heading towards a zone thought of harmful—reminiscent of a favela that’s recognized to have had current 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 examine 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 via day by day,” says journalist Bruno de Blasi. He says that WhatsApp teams have been stuffed with rumors and false studies 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 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. “Instantly I needed to steer clear of 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 teams 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 due to this fact much less more likely to be secure.

Different apps additionally accumulate 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 method.  It was initially created in January 2016 by 4 buddies 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 Cruzado in that it lets the community of customers double-check the veracity of capturing studies.

funeral of Matheus Lessa
Family and buddies carry the coffin of 22-year-old Matheus Lessa who was shot useless 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 wish 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 studies are additionally launched to the press. Greater than 4.7 million individuals used the app final 12 months, in response to Dennis Coli, one in every of OTT’s cofounders.

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

The apps have a political angle, too. In addition to holding 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 selected however key operate 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 step by step turned scarce and the work of the press turned increasingly more tough,” she says.

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

Previously, the state had a monopoly on official data, however immediately issues have modified, she says. “It’s wholesome to keep up redundant databases, collected by lively communities, in order that information may be challenged with a view to hold the civic area open and international.”

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.”