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AP PHOTOS: Fairy-tale night for girls in Rio slum

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Photo - A teenage girl from the Santa Marta "favela" slum exits a police car, taking the hand of an officer who patrols her neighborhood as she arrives to Copacabana for a group debutante ball organized by her slum's Pacifying Police Unit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. Fifteen-year-olds from Santa Marta made their coming out Friday night, escorted by police officers who patrol their communities. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
A teenage girl from the Santa Marta "favela" slum exits a police car, taking the hand of an officer who patrols her neighborhood as she arrives to Copacabana for a group debutante ball organized by her slum's Pacifying Police Unit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. Fifteen-year-olds from Santa Marta made their coming out Friday night, escorted by police officers who patrol their communities. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Dressed in long evening gowns, girls from Rio de Janeiro's Santa Marta "favela" slum have celebrated a fairy-tale evening in a debutante ball sponsored by local police.

The 15-year-old girls were escorted to the ball held in a Copacabana dancehall Friday night by members of the Pacifying Police Unit from their community. The police units have re-conquered slums ruled for decades by drug-dealing gangs.

The girls were coiffed and made up by volunteers, and their dresses were loaned by a formal wear shop.

Debutante balls have been a custom among upper-middle-class and wealthy Brazilian families. They mark a girl's transition from childhood to adulthood.

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