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Tuesday, January 12, 1999 Published at 18:56 GMT

World: Europe

PM fights Milan crime wave

Milan: Crime wave compared to 1930s Chicago

Emergency talks on combating the continuing crime wave in the northern Italian city of Milan have been held by Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema and the police authorities.

Nine people were killed in the city - Italy's financial capital - in the first nine days of this year.

[ image: Massimo D'Alema: Appeals for calm]
Massimo D'Alema: Appeals for calm
The prime minister said: "During 1999, we are committed to reinforcing the police presence in the Milan area. There will be a significant boost in both personnel, equipment and technology."

Mr D'Alema also announced that the Milan operation rooms for the state police and military police would be merged as a first step towards more efficient policing.

The three main forces in Italy - the military police, the state police, and the tax police - often fail to co-ordinate their investigations.

BBC Rome Correspondent David Willey says the proliferation of police forces has hindered the Italian authorities' efforts to curb the city's violence.

On Monday, a cartoon in Italy's biggest circulation newspaper showed two rival policemen creeping up on each other, gun in hand, at a street corner, in the style of an old American Western.

Meanwhile, Milan Mayor Gabriele Albertini has been asking New York's Mayor Giuliani for suggestions in the fight against city crime.

Armed robberies every day

Ordinary people in Milan have been voicing growing disquiet at the crime wave.

Armed robberies on jewellers, shops and banks take place almost daily.

Last year's crime statistics show that the vast majority of crimes reported to police went unsolved and unpunished.

The press has dubbed Milan "the capital of crime", provoking a display of simmering racial tension directed against immigrants.

Local people have blamed immigrants from the Balkans, many of them illegal, for many robberies and violent crimes.

The BBC's Orla Guerin: "Police are convinced that illegal immigrants are responsible"
Mr D'Alema has said Italy will not give in to racist hysteria and will continue to apply the rule of law.

But the government admits that the crime wave is linked to the local Mafia working alongside Albanian criminal organisations.

The right-wing opposition, led by media magnate Silvio Berlusconi, has accused the government of sloppiness in its approach to crime and called for a public demonstration on the streets of Milan on Saturday.

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