Dominican security measures improve public safety
By Dialogo November 09, 2013
Authorities in the Dominican Republic have lowered the homicide rate and improved overall public safety, thanks to a series of strong police initiatives.
The homicide rate in the Dominican Republic is down to 16.6 killings per 100,000 inhabitants. The homicide rate has not been that low since 2003, according to Manuel Castro Castillo, chief of the National Police.
A series of strong police initiatives and close cooperation between different police units led to the reduced the rate of killings, said Col. Jacobo Moquete, a spokesman for the National Police.
“This drop [in murder rate] is a product of recent changes we’ve put in place,” Moquete explained. “We’ve increased our operative capacity and put in place more effective operations focused specifically in tracking weapons, unidentified vehicles, and fugitives. Also, every operation done by the police is coordinated with the different departments, like investigation, intelligence and anti-narcotics.”
Most of the violence in the Dominican Republic is connected to international drug trafficking and domestic drug dealing, Castro Castillo said. About 75 percent of all crime in the Dominican Republic is related to drugs, he explained.
The National Police have devoted a high level of resources to attacking the drug trade, with positive results.
Between January and June 2013, drug seizures by the National Police increased by 54 percent, according to the country’s National Department Against Drugs. National Police agents confiscated more than seven tons of drugs during the first six months of 2013, and detained more than 12,900 suspects for drug-related crimes.
Increase in drug trafficking
Transnational criminal organizations, like the Sinaloa Cartel, are increasing the amount of drugs they are shipping through the Dominican Republic to Europe, Canada, and the United States. The Dominican Republic is a transshipment point for large loads of cocaine, marijuana, and synthetic drugs.
Drug trafficking groups ship more drugs through the Dominican Republic than any other country in the Caribbean, according to a recent assessment by the U.S. military.
Military authorities estimate that six percent of the cocaine that will be transported into the United States in 2013 will pass through the Dominican Republic.
"The Dominican Republic is a springboard for drug traffickers interested in transporting drugs from South America to the United States, which is something that worries us,” Moquete said.
Big drug seizures
Drug traffickers are transporting more drugs through the Dominican Republic in part because of tighter security in Central American ports and landlocked drug trafficking routes. For example, authorities in Costa Rica have seized 12 tons of drugs during the first 10 months of 2013.
Countries throughout the Caribbean seized a much higher amount of drugs in 2012 than in 2011, according to a report by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Caribbean countries seized 79 metric tons of cocaine in 2012, nearly double the amount of drugs that they confiscated in 2011, according to the report. Between January and September 2013, security forces seized 44 metric tons of drugs in the Caribbean, the report states.
A domestic challenge
The influx of drugs into the Dominican Republic has created security challenges for the country, according to a 2013 report by the U.S. Department of State. International drug traffic that goes through the Dominican Republic has led to higher levels of domestic drug dealing, according to the report.
“Drugs are frequently channeled from Mexico and South America, either by aircraft or through maritime platforms, into the Dominican Republic,” the report states. “Local drug use continues to increase as drug couriers in the Dominican Republic are paid with narcotics rather than cash.”
Police face danger
Between January and early November 2013, drug traffickers and other criminals have killed more than 30 police officers in the Dominican Republic, officials said. On Nov. 4, suspected drug traffickers fired on a police station in the southern part of the country, killing a high-ranking police official.
Despite the dangers, police will continue to confront drug traffickres and other criminals, Moquete said. “
This is a part of the General Manuel Castro Castillo’s decision to submit the institution to a process of transformation, with the intention of changing the very philosophy of the institution: to go from being a reactive police force to a pro-active police force,” Moquete explained.
Modernizing the Armed Forces
The Dominican Republic’s Armed Forces are also making important changes, authorities said.
On Oct. 2, 2013, the Organic Law of the Armed Forces took effect. The law puts the military under the auspices of a civilian Defense Ministry.
This is part of a broader effort to increase civilian input on military matters and to modernize the Armed Forces, authorities said.
Fighting drug consumption
In addition to fighting drug trafficking, authorities working hard to prevent Dominicans from using illegal drugs, Moquete said.
“In terms of resources for prevention, the country has an institution in place, the National Council of Drugs, who we’ve invited to work closely to through the anti-narcotics department of the National Police to fight micro-trafficking or the small distribution centers that supply the sales points across the country,” Moquete explained.
Drug use is closely tied to criminal behavior, Moquete said.
“In 75 percent of the cases, young people are the ones committing the crimes and they do it while under the influence,” he explained.
The Dominican government allocates about $118,000 every month, through the Health Ministry, to organizations that work to prevent drugs.
These non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also receive 15 percent of revenues from auctions and sales of property seized from drug traffickers.