Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Military takes to the streets in fight against crime in Dominican Republic
More than 1,400 Dominican military soldiers are patrolling streets alongside police officers after a wave of robberies and assaults that has left the country searching for answers to a rising crime rate.
President Danilo Medina, who took office in August and promised to improve security, last month ordered the military to join the national police in patrolling busy streets and high-crime areas. But the deployment has sparked a debate over what role the military should play and the effectiveness of the country’s massive police force.
“The armed forces is acting in coordination with the national police as part of a larger citizen safety plan as ordered by the president,” said Diego Pesqueira, a police spokesman.
Police said the combined patrols have led to a near immediate drop in street crime just one week after the military was deployed, although Pesqueira said specifics were not available.
Street crime and a rising murder rates have become the No. 1 concern for residents, according to polls.
In the past 20 years, the murder rate has nearly doubled to 25 homicides per 100,000 residents, a rate more than five times higher that of the United States. Robberies and thefts have also increased.
In recent months, motorcycle-riding thieves, working in tandem, have carried out brazen armed attacks at busy intersections, robbing drivers and passengers of the ubiquitous private shared taxis. The crimes prompted the U.S. Embassy to warn citizens and visitors to “exercise extreme caution.”
Citizens and elected officials have called for any means necessary, including using the armed forces, to improve safety.
As a result, camouflaged soldiers, wielding machine guns, are walking the sidewalks of residential neighborhoods, standing by at busy intersections and stationed at a makeshift camp in the middle of a popular public park.
“I’m in favor of having the soldiers here because the criminality is reaching a point where something needs to be done,” said Máximo Jiménez Mella, 47, who added that two family members have been mugged in the past year. “Obviously, the police alone are not enough.”
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And below is an email from the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo:
Recent press reports and police statistics indicate a rise in armed robberies in various traffic intersections within the National District. These crimes generally take the form of two individuals on a motorcycle approaching stopped cars in busy intersections and robbing the occupants at gunpoint. Press reports also enumerate the intersections within the national district with the highest number of reported cases. All U.S. citizens should exercise extreme caution while traveling through the following intersections:
- John F. Kennedy & Abraham Lincoln
- John F. Kennedy & Máximo Gómez
- John F. Kennedy & Ortega y Gasset
- Ortega y Gasset & San Martín
- Ortega y Gasset & Paraguay (entrance to Plaza de la Salud)
- 27 de Febrero & Churchill
Press reports also state a rise in these same types of crimes on the west side of the district, as follows:
Avenida Luperón in front of various business establishments, including El Canal, Jumbo, Happyland and La Sirena.
The U.S. Embassy reminds all U.S. citizens residing in the Dominican Republic to lock their vehicle doors and windows to avoid becoming targets of opportunity by showing extreme affluence (excessive jewelry, careless use of expensive electronics, etc.) and to secure personal items in the cargo compartments of your vehicles, away from public view. It is imperative to understand that criminals will resort to violence if challenged. Therefore, in the event of a robbery, no one should resist. Please refer to the link below for the press report.
The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo would like to remind all U.S. citizens to remain aware of your surroundings at all time, maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security.
We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in the Dominican Republic enroll in the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at https://step.state.gov/step. STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the U.S. Embassy or nearest U.S. Consulate to contact you in an emergency. If you don't have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Regularly monitor the State Department's website at http://travel.state.gov, where you can find current Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and the Worldwide Caution. Read the Country Specific Information for the Dominican Republic at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_4965.html. For additional information, refer to "A Safe Trip Abroad" on the State Department's website. Contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for up-to-date information on travel restrictions. You can also call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free from within the United States and Canada, or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Follow us on Twitter at https://mobile.twitter.com/travelgov and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/travelgov, and download our free Smart Traveler iPhone App at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/smart-%20traveler/id442693988?mt=8 to have travel information at your fingertips. For any emergencies involving U.S. Citizens in the Dominican Republic, please contact the American Citizens Services (ACS) Unit of the U.S. Embassy. The Consular Section is located at the corner of Cesar Nicolas Penson Street and Maximo Gomez Avenue, Santo Domingo, D.R.; telephone 809-221-2171; e-mail
. For more information, visit our web page http://santodomingo.usembassy.gov.
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MONAGA AT 04:29 PM