The Italian government has announced that, in order to help police fight crime, from next Monday, thousands of troops will be deployed in Italian cities. “Sensitive” sites, like train stations and embassis, will be guarded by about 2 000 troops, while another 1 000 will go on street patrols with police. Some troops will also guard migrant holding centres.
Rome, Naples, Milan and Turin are included in the six-months deployment.
The move has been dismissed as “image-building” by Italy’s centre-left opposition.
After six months, the government would “make an evaluation to see whether it has worked and should be extended to other cities”, said defence minister Ignazio La Russa. On Tuesday, he added that ”this is not a militarisation of cities but a clear response to the perceived demand for greater security”.
In April’s election, Silvio Berlusconi, right-wing leader swept to power, on a tough law-and-order platform, and he promised new measures in order to curb illegal immigration and combat crime.
According to Roberto Maroni, interior minister, troops carrying only small arms would patrol in uniform, adding that those guarding sensitive sites would have body armour and machine guns.
The soldiers will come from the army, air force, navy and Carabinieri paramilitary police.
It’s in 1992-1998 that the last such deployment happened, during an anti-Mafia crackdown, that followed the assassinations of magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.
Shadow interior minister, Marco Minniti, reacted to the government’s announcement on Tuesday by saying that “it’s an image-building operation that risks backfiring”.
“Soldiers patrolling the centres of cities that are our greatest tourist attractions is not a very nice calling card for Italy at the height of the tourist season” he said.