27 March 2007 More than 400 Haitian gang members have been arrested since the beginning of the year in operations by the Haitian National Police (HNP), backed by United Nations police and military to crack down on violent crime, UN officials reported today.
“Our joint operations are increasingly successful,” UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) spokesman David Wimhurst told the UN News Service. “This is the highest rate of arrests and detentions to date.”
The arrests have been made both in the Port-au-Prince, the capital, where UN forces, at times hundreds strong, have helped the HNP bring relative stability to some of the violence-ridden country’s most dangerous areas, such as Cité Soleil and Martissant, and in the countryside where some of the gang leaders have fled.
The local population played a vital role in many of these arrests by providing information on the whereabouts of gang members to Haitian and UN police via confidential telephone hot-lines which, though already in existence, have been increasingly used during the current crackdown. The phone numbers are widely publicized, including on banners around town.
A major coup for the police came with the arrest of notorious Cité Soleil gang leader Evens, alias Ti Kouto, who was captured earlier this month in the southern commune of Les Cayes after being flushed out of his old hunting ground. A number of his senior lieutenants have now also been rounded up.
MINUSTAH, set up in 2004 to help re-establish peace in the impoverished Caribbean country after an insurgency forced President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to go into exile, also assisted the local police in seizing arsenals of weapons and ammunition.
Once the areas had been cleaned up the UN peacekeepers restored badly needed health, medical and water services to the local population, rehabilitating schools that the gangs used as their headquarters, turned their lairs into social service centres and building sports fields and other facilities for a population that has suffered from years of gun violence and extortion.