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‘Crusade for National Security’ underway as army personnel join police in anti-crime effort

New law enforcement measures announced last week by President Lenin Moreno went into effect on Monday. Called the “Great Crusade for National Security,” the plan involves the assignment of army personnel to law enforcement activities and increasing the number of police on the streets and highways.

Police are targeting high-crime areas around the country. (El Mercurio)

The Interior Ministry, which is responsible for law enforcement, says that the plan is being implemented first in larger cities and will expand to smaller towns and rural areas during the month of September. According the National Police office, emphasis is being placed on confiscating illegal weapons and focusing police personnel on high-crime areas. A National Police bulletin said that increased surveillance is being applied to suspected organized crime groups, particularly in coastal areas.

In addition to law enforcement, the Interior Ministry is conducting workshops with prosecutors and judges to stiffen penalties for those convicted of crimes. According to a statement from the ministry press office, “too many serious criminals are being put back on the streets too soon, serving minimal time in jail or prison.” The statement cited a Quito case in which a home burglar was arrested seven times, serving less than a month in captivity for all his crimes.

The new anti-crime measures follow mid-year statistics showing an increase of crime nationwide with Guayaquil and Quito showing double-digit increases in murders and violent assaults.

In Cuenca, where the overall crime rate has remained steady and has dropped in murders and assaults, police supervisor Alexandra Valdiviez says she intends to assign more uniformed officers to high-crime areas as well as reinforce police presence around schools and universities. She said her office is increasing efforts to reduce home burglaries and vehicle theft as well as monitoring incoming foreign residents for criminal activity.

Valdiviez said that army personnel will take over most highway vehicle checks for firearms, freeing up police for street duty.