Police, citizens finding ways to co-operate in the Balkans

24/12/2013

The practice harmonises regional with EU standards and helps the police work preventively in addition to solve crimes.

By Klaudija Lutovska for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 24/12/13

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Gordana Jankulovska, Macedonia internal affairs minister (centre), meets with non-governmental organisations' representatives. [Macedonia Ministry of Internal Affairs]

Police-citizen co-operation in the Balkans is improving authorities' ability to fight crime and increase overall security, officials said.

Macedonia launched its Police Close to the Citizens project on December 9th -- Crime Prevention Day -- to establish informal meetings with the business community, students at student centres, the elderly in crime-affected areas and other citizens.

"We plan to encourage and develop school security teams, in which students will also participate, and [increase the] police presence in buses, bus stations and around schools," Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska told SETimes.

Jankulovska said police-citizen co-operation is a strategic goal, aiming to approach existing EU standards.

"Security depends on all societal actors, though the police have the greatest responsibility for activities undertaken to ensure public safety. But without support from the citizens, the results that we desire and the public expects would not have been satisfactory," she said.

Croatia and Serbia established police-citizen co-operation strategies earlier this year, promoting greater citizen participation in the police decision-making and work.

Officials said the strategies were implemented to harmonise the two countries' police work with the EU member states' best practices.

It is an appropriate framework for police work in the community, adapted to the security and other needs of the citizens, Serbia Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said.

"The influence of crime and other forms of security threats necessitated to advance prevention by developing partnerships with the citizens and the community," Dacic said.

Croatia's interior ministry said every police force that wants to truly transform into a public service must change the way uniformed police communicate with the consumers of their services.

"Citizens will perceive the quickest the positive changes in ... personal behaviour, which will be reflected the police's better acceptance and [lead to] a gradual mutual interaction," it said in a statement.

Macedonian officials said citizen support via the police's toll free line or written complaints to the ministry's internal controls and professional standards department helped it solve the biggest organised crime and corruption cases.

In the first three quarters of this year, the department examined 849 cases, 25 percent more than last year.

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Citizens initiated the vast majority of the cases, but some were initiated by non-governmental organisations and the public defender.

Experts said police should continue strengthening co-operation with citizens, but may benefit if it more readily engages the academic community to improve its capacity to prevent and fight crime.

"Developing security-minded relations with the citizens is very important. In England, one of the highest awards is for co-operation with Scotland Yard. What awaits us is to create a valid concept for national security and defence," Ivan Babanovski, professor at the Security Faculty in Skopje, told SETimes.

What can Balkan countries do to improve police-citizen co-operation? Share your opinion in the comments space.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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