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Building bridges to improve community policing in Kyrgyzstan

In Kyrgyzstan, exchange visits between local authorities, the police, and Local Crime Prevention Centres are proving that maintaining communication and exchanging experiences across the country are an essential part of building a successful community policing approach, says Farrukh Artykov.

Mirmahmudov municipality is located in Nookat rayon of Osh oblast in southern Kyrgyzstan. With a population of around 20,000 people, the community is multi-ethnic, populated mostly by people of Kyrgyz and Uzbek nationalities. Research carried out in Mirmahmudov by Saferworld and local partner Foundation for Tolerance International highlighted several highly sensitive safety concerns from communities, including inter-ethnic tension between Kyrgyz and Uzbek people, religious radicalisation and extremism among youth, and a substantial lack of trust between the police and the local population.

Saferworld is working with the Local Crime Prevention Centre (LCPC) in Mirmahmudov as part of our community security work, which aims to strengthen cooperation between LCPCs, the police, local authorities and communities in order to prevent and resolve security problems. Saferworld started working with the LCPC in 2014 by creating their conditions for work, as well as building the capacities of its 11 members to prevent crime and respond to conflict. The LCPC is made up of people from the elder’s court, women’s committees, youth committees, neighbourhood police inspectors and community activists.

Although it only started working in 2014, the Mirmahmudov LCPC has seen much success. As a group, members mapped out the local safety problems affecting the community and with the support of Saferworld and partners have worked on security issues generally seen as more problematic and sensitive. These include conflicts arising from early marriages and marriage breakdowns that leave young women homeless with children to look after  often leading to conflict between relatives of the two parties; the issue of extremism and radicalisation; inter-ethnic conflicts between young people; and extortion within schools.

In close collaboration with local authorities and experts, the LCPC ran campaigns and organised meetings with at-risk groups and people from the community as a whole to raise awareness about these complex issues.

Recognising how much the LCPC had achieved, Saferworld suggested that institutions working on crime prevention from other regions visit the Mirmahmudov LCPC to learn from the way they are tackling security issues. The LCPC took the initiative to organise an ‘experience exchange’ meeting, inviting members of the Tash-Bulak and Yrys LCPCs from two rural districts of the Jalal-Abad region.

The main purpose of the visit was to exchange information, knowledge, experience and lessons learned about the development of the Mirmahmudov LCPC and how to respond to security issues in the community. Members of the two LCPCs travelled to Mirmahmudov in September 2015, and both groups had a specific interest in learning more about preventing extremism and radicalisation, which they plan to address in their work.

Religious extremism and radicalisation is an urgent problem in Kyrgyzstan today and the involvement of young people in the war in Syria is forcing society to immediately respond. But the population and authorities do not always know how to prevent this, which drives local LCPCs to work together and learn from each other about how to respond.

“The problem of religious extremism is a very dangerous issue and it leads to conflict between the older and younger generations in our communities”Mansur, Mirmahmudov LCPC member and head of youth committee.

Over the course of two days at the end of 2015, the groups exchanged information about how they are implementing their action plans to address security issues and shared experiences of cooperation with relevant local authority structures, in particular with local government and law enforcement agencies. Participants presented publications about their work on security issues, photos from the activities undertaken, and analyses of the security issues they’d been working on. They noted the importance of the application of the security cycle (SARA method) in addressing security problems, which they were trained in by Saferworld and partners.

Photo: Members of Local Crime Prevention Centres in southern Kyrgyzstan share their experiences, knowledge and skills.

LCPC members expressed the importance of holding meetings to exchange experiences and organise these events outside the project. They agreed to meet periodically to continue sharing knowledge and improve their skills.

“We began to realise that we can develop our capability if we learn from each other” – Ayzada, member of Tash-Bulak LCPC.

Farrukh Artykov is Project Coordinator for Saferworld's Central Asia programme.

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Research carried out in Mirmahmudov highlighted several highly sensitive safety concerns, including inter-ethnic tension between Kyrgyz and Uzbek people, religious radicalisation and extremism among youth, and a substantial lack of trust between the police and the local population.

Farrukh Artykov