The Dominican Republic Closes in on Crime
By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo October 24, 2016The Dominican Republic Ministry of Defense bolstered its Internal and Citizen Security Plan in Support of the National Police with the addition of 1,000 members of the Army, Navy and Air Force. The plan, created in 2013, is coordinated by the Unified Joint Command of the Armed Forces, which rotates its command between the three armed branches Major General Braulio Alberto Alcántara, general commander of the Army, assumed control of coordinating the plan on September 2nd at the Ministry of Defense headquarters. Present at the event, was the Minister of Defense, Lieutenant General Rubén Darío Paulino, who announced the increased support for the efforts of the National Police (PN, per its Spanish acronym). "This plan has always been updated based on the police presenting us with their needs. Since its implementation, we have made 18 adjustments to keep our cooperation and operability with the police force up to date. Thus, we have been able to combat organized crime and other criminal activity," said Lt. Gen. Paulino to Diálogo. "Of the 1,000 military members assigned to increase citizen protection, 500 officers were mobilized in September at Santiago de los Caballeros, known as the 'Heart City,' in the country's northern zone. The goal is to reduce the number of assaults, robberies, and violent crimes that occur in that area. The security situation in the country should begin to improve," said Major General Nelson Peguero, general director of the PN. The remainder of the military troops will be deployed in cities where higher crime rates have been recorded, such as San Cristóbal, La Altagracia, and Santo Domingo, where they will check vehicles, search individuals, and establish checkpoints at intersections jointly with police. Approximately 38.8 percent of Dominican citizens see security as the most important issue facing the country. According to the Latin American Public Opinion Project, published in 2014 by Vanderbilt University, 23.4 percent of Dominicans report having been the victim of a crime. The Dominican Republic is ranked 99th on the global peace index and "can be considered a dangerous country," the report said. Until September 2016, some 2,000 men have been mobilized in the various places where the police have detected criminal activity. “This is made possible by mapping crime,” the Ministry of Defense reported. "Understanding the police dynamics became a challenge during the plan's development. But despite that, it has not been hard to do. We have made advances; there are no downsides to the planning. There has been close coordination from the Armed Forces Command to the PN leadership," added Lt. Gen. Paulino. Daniel Pou, associate researcher for the Latin American School of Social Sciences in the Dominican Republic, said that "between January and August of 2016, the Dominican Attorney General reported a homicide rate of 17.57 per 100,000 inhabitants. This is the lowest rate in the past 15 years. The highest homicide rate was in 2005, with 26.56 percent. The most common crime was armed assault in dwellings, shopping centers, and on the street." The Dominican Republic has laid the groundwork for the fundamental transformations that are needed in terms of citizen security. In addition to the Internal and Citizen Security Plan in Support of the National Police, the country also has a more modern legal framework. Notable are the PN reform law and other basic initiatives like the Arms law, the Asset Forfeiture Law and the law creating the 911 emergency service. On August 19th, during his swearing-in as president of the Dominican Republic for the 2016-2020 term, Danilo Medina stated in his speech that, "the police reform law allows us to have a police that is up to date, more highly trained, more disciplined, closer to the people. We are going to complement this legal framework with better training, equipment, and a dignified salary for our police officers.” For Lt. Gen. Paulino, the new NP plan will allow for more effective support to the Dominican society. “This is our role. We are Dominicans, and we are a part of society. We must act together to intervene in support of our society. There is a lot of trust as a result of having this coordination among members of the Armed Forces and the National Police."