For 100 days we collected bullet shells in twenty-seven neighborhoods of the metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro, immediately after the gun fights, between police officers, drug dealers or militiamen. We scoured the streets of Rio de Janeiro and showed the story the bullet shells tell. The gun violence that plagues Rio is made possible by ammunition made largely in Brazil, but also from all over the world. We collected the evidence.
The investigation had a huge repercussion between the big journals of the country, who suited the new. Parliamentarians and public managers quoted the content in their speeches and social media, asking for transparency and boasting the uncontrolled army violence that affects Rio de Janeiro. With the denial of the company and authorities who must in thesis offer the information about the bullet shells, a parliamentarian prepared a requirement of information to call formally informations about these bullet shells to know where they came from and where they should be.
For 100 days we collected 137 bullet shells in twenty-seven neighborhoods of the metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro, immediately after the gun fights, between police officers, drug dealers or militiamen. After the collection, we split the material according to place, date, and agent involved in the conflict. With all this information ready, the material was repassed to the “Instituto Sou da Paz” and to the Small Arms Survey. They identified the manufacturer, caliber, batch and the year of production of the ammunition. We have searched on the press and in the database of the platform “Fogo Cruzado” – that maps shootings and shootouts – all the information referring to the current events of the day to understand who was Involved in these conflicts and the similarity between the material used by them. Thereby, we could put in a map the history of these bullet shells – that travelled thousands of kilometers – until they were fired on the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. We analyzed the actual legislation to understand where are all the gaps – especially to the Brazilian production – and we identified a huge fragility in the inspection done by the army and an absolute lack of transparency from Taurus.
What was the hardest part of this project?
The most difficult part of this survey was to develop a network of collaborations to access the capsules immediately after the shootings – in security and confidentiality. Despite the difficulty in building and articulating this network, this work was done. On the other hand, there was extreme difficulty in the access of government data on ammunition manufacturing lots. Of the 94 national capsules we collected, it was only possible to identify the batch marking in 53 of them. However, we were only able to discover their buyer in just four, crossing information with a survey by the Federal Public Ministry of Paraíba.We requested information on these lots to the press office and the Access to Information Law. All requests were denied, alleging secrecy or that the data was not within their competence. This was the difficulty that we were unable to overcome.
What can others learn from this project?
Quality journalism depends on time and resources. This guideline remained more than one year to be done. It was needed to talk with a lot of people – inside and out of Brazil – and walk at all Rio de Janeiro for months. Analyses, video, texts and products for different platforms. It was needed to have a sharp team in their positions so that a huge investigation like that reaches the maximum repercussion.This project involves a difficult guideline of covering because of the lack of information and the risks involved. The principle lesson that remains is that the way to pass thought this kind of difficulty is to innovate in inquiry, to search for new ways of approaching complex themes and innovative ways to show the public.