Italians are now safer with 3,000 Italian troops deployed to various cities in Italy to work with local law enforcement.
The announcement by recently elected leader Silvio Berlusconi is more publicity stunt than proactive action in making city safer, say critics. Supporters of the idea and some city officials have welcomed the extra military muscle on their streets. The troops will patrol areas near embassies, subways, railroad stations and illegal immigrant centres as part of a broader $93 million government effort to fight crime.
On the outside looking in, appears to be a reasonable idea; we all want to be safe, correct? Italy is no where near to becoming a police state, it would be virtually impossible if they wished to do so. This is the country that has elected 62 governments since the end of World War Two, getting a government to survive its full term is an accomplishment.
Does Italy have crime and corruption, yes and in spades, but what country does not? Are soldiers better trained to handle public disruption and crime than police officers? The answer is no, we are talking about a different set of mental wiring and training.
Think of what Toronto would look like if 3,000 Canadian troops were deployed to patrol its streets, how would you feel? Would Canadian troops make a difference? Would armed soldiers, not police officers but soldiers, walking down Yonge or Queen streets or in Rexdale or Jane and Finch, make you feel safer- would it depend where you live? Would soldiers patrolling your city’s streets actually make you feel intimidated?
Rome’s mayor has requested that the soldiers not patrol the areas around its main tourist attractions. He fears the soldiers will scare tourists. Think of the vacation pictures, not with an authentic gelato vendor in the background near the Coliseum but an armed Italian soldier instead- kills the romanticism, does it not?
Italy’s does have a history of deploying its troops to quell local violence. Between 1992 and 1998, 20,000 troops were deployed in Sicily alone to secure public safety as the mafia waged its war against authorities. Troops have also been sent in the past to Calabria and Campania to fight organized crime.
What of Toronto’s recent history with troops deployed on its streets? When mighty mayor Mel Lastman in 1999 called them in to help remove snow from our streets- let’s hope that will be the last time for us.