Italian officials study where to resettle thousands of Gypsies as part of crime crackdown

Rome is studying where to resettle the thousands of Gypsies who live in the city, as part of a nationwide crime crackdown.

Rome Prefect Achille Serra, backed by Mayor Walter Veltroni, has set up a commission to decide where to put the new settlements, Serra's office said Wednesday.

Several sprawling settlements of ramshackle trailers and wooden shanties without toilets blot the far reaches of Rome, home to about 7,000 Gypsies, or Roma.

Possibilities might include consolidating the city-run camps, established about seven years ago to replace even more squalid settlements, into four camps on the outskirts of the city.

Gypsies have faced prejudice and discrimination over the centuries. Some 500,000 of them perished in Nazi gas chambers and concentration camps in World War II.

Few people are willing to hire Gypsies and many of them have made begging and stealing their livelihood.

Special undercover police squads in Rome ride buses and subways and mingle among tourists at the Colosseum and other crowded sites to catch pickpockets, some of whom are Gypsy children. With surveys indicating that many Italians are worried about crime and that many associate crime with non-Italians, politicians have been scrambling to make citizens feel safer.

Rome is also planning to ban street prostitution. While prostitution itself would stay legal, it would be forbidden to solicit sex for money in public places.

Turin and Milan are also launching anti-crime campaigns.

Crime has been a big issue in campaigning across Italy for local elections May 27-28. The mayorships of Rome, Turin and Milan are not up for grabs in the vote, which will be held in mainly smaller cities and towns.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova