Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Italy Begins Military Effort to Quell Crime

From the New York Times:

By Elisabetta Povoledo

August 5, 2008

ROME — Soldiers were deployed throughout Italy on Monday to embassies, subway and railway stations, as part of broader government measures to fight violent crime here for which illegal immigrants are broadly blamed.

By the time it is fully effective next week, the effort will flank regular police officers and the military police with 3,000 troops, a visible signal to citizens that the government “has responded to their demands for greater security,” Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa said in an interview on the Italian Sky News channel.

The conservative government of Silvio Berlusconi won elections in April while promising to crack down on petty crime and illegal immigrants. The new patrols of soldiers, who are not empowered to make arrests, do not seem aimed only at illegal immigrants, though the patrols were deployed to centers where illegal immigrants are housed.

“Security is something concrete,” Mr. La Russa said on Monday. The troops, he said, will be a “deterrent to criminals.”

Critics of the government have condemned the deployment as a superfluous measure that could prove counterproductive.

“Putting troops on the street sends a dramatic message that the situation is more serious than it is in reality,” said Marco Minniti, the shadow interior minister of the center-left Democratic Party, the largest opposition party.

Television news stations showed military officials searching immigrants’ suitcases at subway stations. Potential terrorist targets were also under greater scrutiny. In Milan, troops were stationed around the city’s Gothic cathedral, and in Naples they watched the American Consulate.

Read the full article

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