Dominican Republic sends troops to fight crime

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Dominican Republic military

The Dominican Republic is resorting to its military to fight street crime. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kim Williams/Released)

Today, the Dominican Republic’s military joined the National Police for patrols throughout this week in an effort to counter the recent rise in street crimes, including assaults on public figures.

At the same time, the Armed Forces took control of the security and control measures around Puerto Caucedo, after President Danilo Medina signed an order. Medina modified the 1006-03 decree, which created the Military Security Directorate of the terminal. In the future, this will depend on the Ministry of Armed Forces.

“The citizens may perceive a further increase in the civil-military preventive patrols,” said Maximo Baez, spokesman of the National Police.

President Medina ordered the Armed Forces and the National Police “to use all military necessary for the fight against crime.”

The police spokesman said more vehicles will be assigned and security will be heightened in “the areas where statistics show that there is a greater incidence of crime.”

In addition to the use of the military in patrols, Baez said, “We’ve recovered more than 900 police officers who were assigned outside the institution.”

Residents and traders in the areas where crime and insecurity has become part of everyday life described the military presence on the main intersections in the capital and the province of Santo Domingo as wise and timely.

“This has been needed for a long time, the army is on the streets to protect us from criminals and they are doing their job; crime has gone down in the neighborhoods and shopping areas,” said Fiordaliza Santana, a trader on Nicolas de Ovando street who has been mugged three times.

Several people agreed that the military patrols do not work together with the residents of the neighborhoods or other areas.

In Naco, which has been hit by a major wave of robberies and muggings over the last few weeks, local residents believe that the military presence will help eradicate crime, adding that robberies and muggings have practically ceased.

One trader, Ramiro Sanchez, said that at first he did not agree with the idea of sending the army out on the streets to help the police with patrolling, “but if it hadn’t been done, crime would have beaten us in the race.”

According to Sanchez, the army sent criminals a clear message, “which is that they cannot co-exist with decent working people and with those of us who want to progress.”

At present more than 1,500 agents from the three branches of the armed forces are patrolling 24 hours a day in eight-hour shifts.

They are strategically posted on corners labeled as “nerve centers” by the police, as well as in the main commercial centers in the National District and other provinces across the country.

The Overseas Security Advisory Council Bureau of Diplomatic Security crime report findings

Dominican Republic's new President Danilo Medina waves as he arrives for his swearing-in ceremony in Santo Domingo, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012. The 60-year-old economist of the Dominican Liberation Party won 51 percent of the vote in May, beating former President Hipolito Mejia. (AP Photo/Manuel Diaz)

Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina signed an order for the country’s Armed Forces to take control of the security and control measures around Puerto Caucedo. (AP Photo/Manuel Diaz)

While the State Department rates the crime threat for the Dominican Republic as “high,” preliminary 2011 statistics from the National Police at the national level (in comparison to 2010 figures) showed a 2 percent increase in the number of reported homicides; a 9 percent increase in the number of injuries that resulted from acts of violence with weapons; a 9 percent increase in the number of fraud-related schemes; and a 5 percent decrease in armed robberies.

Some of the primary contributing factors were unemployment, domestic violence, large scale migration to urban areas, abuse of drugs and alcohol, drug trafficking and the availability of weapons.

On the other hand, the Dominican Republic continues to be the main command center for drug trafficking in the Caribbean region, with an increase in the past two years of 800 percent of the cocaine to the U.S. and Europe, according to the European Union’s COPOLAD Program (a drug partnership cooperation program between the European Union and Latin America).

Fraud schemes continue to increase, with credit card fraud still being the main dilemma — individuals are encouraged to use their credit and ATM cards judiciously while in the Dominican Republic. In addition, during the holiday season (from November to January) and especially during carnaval, the overall level of crime tends to rise, particularly thefts and robberies.

Preliminary 2011 Dominican Republic crime statistics (per 100,000 inhabitants)

Homicides: The five most violent cities in the country were La Altagracia (32.80), El Seibo (30.76), Dajabon (28.21), Peravia (27.78) and Samana (25.06).

Robberies: The top five cities for reported robberies were Santo Domingo, National District, Santiago, Puerto Plata and San Cristobal.

The top five national district neighborhoods were Arroyo Hondo, Villas Agricolas, Villa Consuelo, Villa Francisca and Capotillo.

Assaults: The top five cities were La Romana, San Critobal, National District, Santiago and Santo Domingo.

Kidnappings: The top five cities were Santo Domingo, National District, Santiago, San Cristobal and La Vega.

Rapes: The top three cities were Barahona, Peravia and Santo Domingo Norte.

Civil Tension

Since 1996, the Dominican Republic has seen a consolidation of political freedoms within its representational democracy, with a series of elections seen as generally free and fair. The country still faces a serious problem with corruption, as measured by international indices. Politically-motivated protests, demonstrations and general strikes occur periodically. Previous political demonstrations have sometimes turned violent, with participants rioting and erecting roadblocks and police sometimes using deadly force in response.

Civil unrest has become a common occurrence in the last several years due to the lack of adequate electricity, water resources, and the public opinion from certain groups that the government is not actively pursuing a sufficient maintenance and improvement program for roadways, bridges and other infrastructure. In addition to public protests within the National District, demonstrations and strikes have occurred outside of Santo Domingo without advance notice and have turned violent.

The constitution was changed on January 26, 2010 in order to separate the powers of the National Police and the military. This constitutional change specifically identifies the military’s responsibility to maintain the country’s sovereignty, leaving the National Police — with a force of 29,627 officers — to handle the country’s internal security and the protection of its citizens.

Since 2010, in its effort to become a reliable and professional law enforcement entity, the National Police embarked on a set of reforms to ensure these changes come to fruition. The chief of police is striving to reach a level of professionalism, whereby the public’s perception is a positive one — rather than viewed as corrupt and inept.

Based on reporting from Diario Libre and Dominican Today. Statistics based on US OSAC findings.

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