A new community policing-based approach improves police access to citizens.
By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 26/08/14
Macedonia is deploying police vans, known as mobile police stations, to rural areas. [Miki Trajkovski/SETimes]
Police in Macedonia and Serbia are employing new strategies to reach rural areas to address local issues and cross-border crime, officials said.
Macedonian police introduced vans, popularly called mobile police stations, as part of its Neighbourhood Patrol project that aims to prevent or timely respond to crime and security threats.
"We expect this will contribute to increasing citizen trust in the police as well as police performance, which presupposes a reduction in crime," Ivo Kotevski, spokesman for the Macedonia Interior Ministry, told SETimes.
Similarly, Serbia adopted a community policing strategy last year whose goal is to improve collaboration between the police and local government, organisations, the business community and citizens.
"In working with citizens in rural areas, in daily direct contact with these citizens, the police are affirming and achieving the position of a service to citizens in which the onus of police work is prevention, communication and co-operation, especially in areas with mixed ethnic structure," Serbia's Internal Affairs Ministry told SETimes in a statement.
The ministry said under the strategy, police officers will be assigned to define the community security situation as well as the needs to address it.
The strategy requires local communities to actively participate with police in solving crime and security-related problems, particularly in multi-ethnic areas.
"Co-operation will be developed with religious minority communities and vulnerable populations. Measures will be taken to maintain stable inter-ethnic relations -- a favourable situation of the public order and effective development of security, protection of the people and property," the ministry said.
Citizens welcomed being able to contact police officers to report thefts or other legal infractions.
"This will facilitate our access to the police, instead of going to city to reach police stations. Any police presence will ensure greater safety and citizens do feel safer," Gordana Mujoska, 40, a resident of Lower Lisiche in Skopje, told SETimes.
Correspondent Ivana Jovanovic in Belgrade contributed to this report.
What can Balkan countries do to enhance law enforcement in rural areas? Share your thoughts in the comments space.