By Dialogo September 23, 2011 Dominican President Leonel Fernández announced new measures to combat insecurity in the country, especially in the city of Santiago (in the northwestern Dominican Republic), where an increase in common and organized crime has been recorded. “We will speed up consideration, approval, and implementation of the new Criminal Code, which should include new types of offenses and stronger penalties for those serious cases that are undermining security,” the president said. The president, who participated in the Civic Encounter for Security organized by businesspeople and civil society, committed to reinforcing coordination among the Government, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and the police in order to provide improved security and deliver more surveillance equipment to that city. At the meeting, residents of Santiago expressed their concern due to the numerous murders of women (138 so far this year) recorded in the northern part of the country and to the numerous actions by organized crime, most recently in August, when three Colombians and one Venezuelan were murdered in a case linked to drug trafficking. They likewise denounced the rise in theft and kidnapping and the involvement of juveniles in crimes, as a result of which they demanded an increase in the maximum penalty from 30 to 50 years in prison. Griselis Martínez, a representative of the Santiago residents’ committees, asked that murderers and hitmen “not have the opportunity for review (of their sentences) or release on parole.” Fernández ordered a ban on the use of cell phones in prisons, a common practice in penitentiaries that has resulted in the involvement of prisoners in criminal conspiracies. During the meeting, the president also criticized the judicial branch, which he held responsible for letting criminals back out on the streets. “I can’t figure out how, if there are representatives of the Public Prosecutor’s Office working in these institutions and substantiating the case files, they then throw out the cases for lack of evidence. That makes no sense, and we demand an explanation of what it is that’s going on,” he indicated. In the Dominican Republic, with a population of ten million people, the homicide rate ranges between 18 and 25 per 100,000 inhabitants.