Milestone in community policing in Serbia
A partnership approach
The concept of community policing requires a partnership approach between the police and the public, explains Tor Tanke Holm, Head of the Law Enforcement Department of the OSCE Mission to the FRY. "It is no longer feasible for a police officer just to enforce the law. Citizens and police officers can establish quality relations and improve public safety together."
To develop this concept, the Ministry of Interior, assisted by the OSCE, initiated a pilot programme to reform policing. Five regions experiencing typical problems were chosen to take part in the programme, among them the Belgrade district of Zvezdara. With a population of 170,000, 4,000 businesses, 3 sports centers, 2 hospitals and 28 schools, Zvezdara is an ideal place to start building closer relationships between police and community.
Community policing in practice
The progress in Zvezdara's schools illustrates what has been achieved to date. In partnership with parents and teachers, the police conducted a survey to determine how children perceive security at school and in their community. The outcome revealed extensive problems with drugs and violence, the presence of firearms and the existence of gangs. Police also found children requesting information and advice on how to improve their security.
According to Captain Manoljovic, the police officer's first task was to encourage trust. "We implemented an educational programme for students, parents and teachers, and organized regular meetings with police officers." In addition, uniformed but unarmed police officers were posted in schools as a means of establishing contact and building confidence. Other police officers, in plain clothes, taught crime prevention methods.
Together with visits to police stations and the provision of emergency phone numbers, the programme led to a significant drop of criminal offences in Zvezdara schools in a short period of time.
Building mutual trust
A series of seminars were also held in each pilot region to initiate dialogue between police and members of the local community. The intention of these meetings was to develop a relationship based on consensus and trust and provide a regular consultative forum. Participants included local government representatives, church and community leaders and non-governmental organizations.
Another milestone for the future of community policing in Serbia was the launch of a public perception survey which identified areas where police and community can work together to improve safety. Follow-up meetings will soon be held to discuss results.