Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative party won the April elections and said crime and public safety issues are top priorities. His government will be using up to 2,500 soldiers to patrol the important crime areas in the cities and urban areas across Italy. The soldiers will team up with the police in these efforts.
However, many people, including the unions and the center-left opposition, are vocal against this militarization of the streets. Roberta Pinotti, the defense spokesman for the Democratic Party, wants to use police instead of the military to fight against crimes.
But the Italian government is defending its actions and will continue to use these soldiers on a trial basis for six months and an option to renew it once more.
Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa told Sky Italia television
There is a strong call from citizens for better control of the streets, for improved safety…My hope is that particularly in the evening, in the cities, these troops can ensure greater safety.
Italy's main trade unions said the government should instead use the 25,000 police staff who are doing desk work. The mayor of Turin said the government is trying to be popular but the presence of soldiers in the streets will hurt tourism and Italy’s image abroad.
Sergio Chiamparino told La Repubblica daily
."I have only seen soldiers on the streets in Bogota, but there the situation is rather different."
La Russa however is defending government’s actions: "Very often just seeing a [soldier's] uniform can be sufficient as prevention. I don't see what the problem is."
I agree with the mayor of Turin. It will hurt tourism. The presence of soldiers on the streets will look more like an emergency situation and the tourists will feel more threatened than safe under these conditions. The government could instead retrain the police or hire more police staff to patrol the streets.