Creating safer neighbourhoods in Strpce/Shtërpcë
25 July 2012
Over the past year Kosovo has been facing some of its biggest challenges since the war ended in 1999. Public support for the government has declined, EU-facilitated talks between Kosovo and Serbia have been faced with new challenges, and there have been violent clashes in the north, leading to the death of a Kosovo police officer, the destruction of a customs point in Jarinjë/Jarinje and widespread disruption by road barricades.
Against this backdrop of increasing tensions Saferworld is working to build durable links at a local level between communities, local government and the police. Since 2005 we have developed partnerships in ten communities across Kosovo. These successful sites, as well as our long term research project and engagement with the government of Kosovo, enabled us to play a key role in informing the development of a National Law on Weapons in 2009 and a National Strategy and Action Plan for Community Safety during 2011.
Our newest site is Štrpce/Shtërpcë, a predominantly Kosovo Serb municipality in the south-east with a population of 13,630. In early 2012, Saferworld, in partnership with local NGO Future without Fear, held community consultation meetings to identify security problems in the municipality. The community identified shootings in the city, alcoholism and gambling among young people as their most pressing safety concerns.
In response to this, Saferworld supported Future without Fear to design and carry out a two-day information campaign in the city of Štrpce/Shtërpcë and 16 surrounding villages during March. With the message ‘Ensure a safe neighbourhood for yourself and others’, the campaign aimed to raise awareness about the dangers of using illicit weapons, as well as the harmful impact of alcohol abuse and gambling. The campaign targeted young people and their parents through a number of activities including public debates, meetings with owners of cafes and casino bars, lectures in schools, a media campaign on local radio, leaflets and posters, a concert and an outdoor exhibition.
Igor Saviḉ, Executive Director of Future without Fear was pleased with the outcome. “As a result of the campaign, there is now greater public support for tighter regulation of bars. The police have agreed to place stricter controls on cafes and casino bars frequented by young people.”
Over 400 people were directly involved in the campaign as participants and it reached almost the entire population of the municipality through media advertisements and radio debates. Casino bars have also put up notification signs that under 18 years olds are not allowed to enter and the local assembly has approved a regulation for increasing the licence fees for opening a casino bar. The biggest achievement of the campaign however was its success in bringing together the police, local government and the community to take positive action to improve the security of their municipality.