Police focus on stopping illegal drugs in Macedonia, Serbia

29/04/2014

Police employ a systematic approach to combat street drug dealing.

By Miki Trajkovski and Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Skopje and Belgrade -- 29/04/14

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Police are moving against street-level drug dealers in the Balkans. [Tomislav Georgiev/SETimes]

Police in Macedonia and Serbia are undertaking efforts to stop street drug dealing of marijuana, heroin, methadone and ecstasy. Operation Net began last month and is the first systematic and comprehensive police action to suppress street drug dealers in Macedonia, said Ivo Kotevski, spokesperson for the Macedonia internal affairs ministry.

"Macedonian police thus far took active measures against drug suppliers as well as users, but they were largely individual cases. Now we approach all cases systemically, mapping all individual and group dealers," Kotevski told SETimes.

In Serbia, police in Nis arrested 11 people earlier this month and confiscated 187 kilograms of drugs. In co-operation with the customs office, police also arrested a Turkish supplier with 2 kilograms of heroin worth 150,000 euros.

Illegal drugs are one of the greatest threats to national and regional security, necessitating co-operation among police forces in the region, said Sasa Djordjevic, a researcher at the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy.

"Greater co-operation by police in the region will improve security for all regional countries, but also strengthen their capacity to co-operate with Europol and Frontex as well," he said.

Macedonia is opening a front against drug dealing everywhere, said Gordana Jankulovska, internal affairs minister. "We expect wide-ranging citizen support. We already profiled individuals and groups that deal various kinds of drugs, endangering the lives of thousands of young people," Jankulovska told reporters.

Jankulovska said two dealers arrested this month led police to the supplier and leader of the criminal group. Police detained more than 40 people throughout Macedonia and confiscated various drugs, including marijuana, heroin, methadone and ecstasy tablets intended for street sale.

Police should continue putting pressure on actual and potential dealers, said Stefan Budzakovski, manager of the Macedonia, a Country without Drugs project at FON University in Skopje.

"That is because such police operations have repressive as well as preventative aspects. They are even more important because, kids nowadays begin using drugs in primary school," Budzakovski told SETimes.

Serbia seized about 3.4 tonnes of illegal drugs in 2013, said Sasa Matic, the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Department for prevention and combating of offenses narcotics within the Criminal Police Directorate.

Authorities there are working within schools to educate students about the dangers of drug use.

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"Since December 2012, the department had trained 54 educators who are teaching school personnel, children, parents and citizens about drug prevention. About 1,000 of police commanders of fire and rescue units are passing through education about the signs and symptoms as well as how to identify controlled psychoactive substances," Mitic told SETimes.

Drug arrests in Serbia build on the successes of operations, including last December's Thunder 2 -- the biggest effort Serbian authorities have undertaken -- in which resulted in the arrests of nearly 500 people connected to drug dealing networks. Police co-operation is necessary to better address the more complex criminal cases, Djordjevic said.

"Police co-operation between Macedonia and Serbia has progressed in the past two years. It can be said co-operation between the two countries is the best in the region," Djordjevic said.

What else can Macedonia and Serbia do to combat street drug trafficking? Share your opinion in the comments section.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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