More than 7000 escaped criminals on the rampage in Haiti streets

In Americas, Earthquakes & Tsunamis, News Headlines

HAITI’S police chief says bandits are preying on vulnerable earthquake survivors, even raping women, in makeshift camps set up in the capital after the disaster.

“With the blackout that’s befallen the Haitian capital, bandits are taking advantage to harass and rape women and young girls under the tents,” national police chief Mario Andresol said.

“We have more than 7000 detainees in the streets who escaped from the National Penitentiary the evening of the earthquake.

“It took us five years to apprehend them. Today they are running wild.”

Rachelle Dolce, who is living at large makeshift camp on the Petionville Club Golf Course, said she thought a rape had occurred outside her tent the previous night.

She said she heard men making noise and a woman struggling.

“I heard a fight outside, and I saw panties on the ground,” she said. “I started to shout a lot, and they left.”

Figures for the number of crimes were not available but women’s organisations have already detailed a number of cases and alerted the United Nations mission in Haiti, Mr Andresol said.

His warning came a day after UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said that gangsters and child traffickers could try to exploit the chaos triggered by Haiti’s devastating earthquake to step up their criminal activities.

The January 12 earthquake killed around 170,000 people and left more than a million others homeless, many of whom are living in makeshift camps in the ruined capital.

Security was tenuous in Haiti before the 7.0-magnitude quake, but Mr Andresol said the police force itself had been crippled by the disaster.

Mr Andresol said the Haitian police force had only 8000 members before the quake and that many of them were now dead or missing, adding that a large number of the remaining officers were demoralised or traumatised.

“We lost 70 police officers, nearly 500 are still missing and 400 were wounded,” he said.

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