Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Italy sends in troops, but why?


“Should I wait until she’s finished?” asks a soldier from an Italian Alpine regiment, in their distinctive feathered Tyrolean-style hat, to her police colleagues as they patrol an area of Turin notorious for addicts known as “Toxic Park” and see a woman shooting up.

Incidents like this one reported in Corriere della Sera newspaper seem to support Italian police unions’ doubts about Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s initiative, which began this week, to put 3,000 soldiers on the streets of 10 cities for the next six months to help the police fight a supposed crime wave. Some police officers believe military personnel, even those hardened by peace missions abroad, do not have the training needed to fight crime.

Italian solder patrols streetBut as the first few hundred soldiers took to the streets this week — wearing barrack-dress uniform with sidearms only for street patrols, but camouflage combat gear and rifles for guard duty on “sensitive” targets like embassies and railway stations — many city mayors hailed the exercise as a success. The military man in charge of the operation, Giuseppe Valotto, said the public reaction had been “incredibly positive” and helped improve citizens’ perception of their own safety. Soldiers even notched up a few “collars” in their first few days on joint patrol with the police, hauling in 12 African immigrants in Naples accused of faking fashion brands, chasing a thief through the streets of Bari and nabbing a man in Milan who had snatched the takings of a bar from the till.

Being style-conscious Italians, of course, the troops carried off their street duties with the requisite swagger and Rome’s right-wing mayor, Gianni Alemanno, who has worried about them scaring off the tourists, appeared taken with the Grenadiers of Sardinia helping out with guard duties in Rome, saying: “They looked like they were out of a film, really perfect, they have a great image.”