Italy to legalise neighbourhood watches

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As of Saturday, neighbourhood watch groups must seek authorisation from local authorities.

Rome – Italy was expected to take another step towards legalising citizen's night watches to boost security in big cities Saturday when a decree setting rules for the controversial measure is to be signed.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told his anti-immigration Northern League's party paper La Padania he would sign the provision on 8 August. The provision was adopted by the conservative government in February but never implemented.

Under ministry rules, the neighbourhood watches must be authorised by mayors and overseen by the police chief.

Volunteers must patrol on foot in unarmed groups of not more than five and must not carry any visible signs of party membership.

The centre-left opposition has slammed the project as a "freedom killer".

"It is this government's high-handed objective to weaken the judiciary and the security forces," the newspaper La Stampa on Wednesday quoted former magistrate Luigi De Magistris of the left-wing Italy of Values party as saying.

De Magistris warned that infamous citizen's "action groups" had already existed under Benito Mussolini's 1922-43 fascist regime.

The Vatican condemned citizen's watches in February as an "abdication of the rule of law".

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government has already deployed 4,250 troops in key areas of a number of big cities to back up ordinary crime busters.

La Stampa said the crime rate dropped 8.1 percent between 2007 and 2008.

AFP / Expatica

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