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Czech Republic: Police assistants were supposed to be hired, now they're unemployed

Sokolov, 16.6.2014 16:39, (ROMEA)
Crime prevention assistants in the Czech Republic.
Crime prevention assistants in the Czech Republic.

Recently they were a model for the whole country. For two years the Western Bohemian town of Sokolov has been successfully using so-called crime prevention assistants to maintain order in troubled localities.

One of them even became the first assistant in the Czech Republic to join a municipal police force after graduating from school this past spring. Now, however, the assistants have received an unpleasant shock.

The six crime prevention assistants in Sokolov have been unemployed since the start of this month. The money, it seems, has run out.

Despite the fact that the town signed an 18-month contract with the Czech Interior Ministry, the money has yet to make it to Sokolov. Similar problems with disappearing finances are being experienced by other towns as well. 

"There has been approximately a 20-month delay in the selection of the firm to train these assistants with EU money," explains Interior Ministry spokesperson Hana Malá. "All towns, including Sokolov, got a chance to make it through that period thanks to a subsidy from the ministry's crime prevention program."

Malá says Sokolov can request more money by this Wednesday. The town hall leadership is counting on assistants being able to take to the streets once more, but not until 1 August at the earliest.

Of course the need for the assistants exists now. Complaints from residents of localities around the train station or the Alfa cinema come in regularly during the warm days of summer.

"The time of year when we need the assistants is coming up. I'm particularly thinking of the many cultural events held by the town," town councilor Jan Picka, who has been entrusted with commanding the municipal police, told the regional edition of the daily Deník. 

Picka clarified that the town had reviewed whether to contract the assistants as service providers. They are registered with the employment office, however, and there is reportedly a danger that they could lose their benefits if they undertook such work.

The town will be responding to the Interior Ministry's offer of requesting an extraordinary subsidy. "I will propose convening an extraordinary session of the town council. This is welcome news to us, because we need the six assistants during summer," the Sokolov town councilor confirmed to Deník. 

Residents are satisfied with the assistants' work liaising between what the Czech press terms "inadaptable people" and the police. That has been proven by a recent survey in which half of respondents stated the situation in Sokolov has improved since the assistants were instituted. 

The crime prevention assistants help police establish contact with the local Romani community. They are the connecting link between the local School Department, the schools themselves, and the Social Welfare Department. 

The assistants serve in selected localities, guarding crosswalks near schools and helping address truancy. "I take the train daily, and I can say that I constantly see someone in uniform here. They clear anyone who isn't a passenger out of the train station," a resident of Sokolov told Deník.  

The crime prevention assistant project was launched by the Interior Ministry in 2009. Assistants are not police officers, do not carry weapons, and the main force available to them is "verbal". 

According to the crime prevention assistant methodology adopted by the ministry, it is ideal for assistants to patrol together with police officers. They should also be identifiable, whether in a "uniform" or vest.

Deník.cz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Asistenti prevence kriminality, Sokolov, strážník, vyloučená lokalita



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