Czech towns hire Romani community members as police assistants
Safety on the streets of Hanušovice in the Šumperk area has begun to be guarded by local Romani residents. The local council decided to take the step after being unable to hire any new recruits to its local police force for approximately two years.
Two police assistant patrols are now minding high-risk areas and public order, such as at schools, and the Romani men hired for the work are said to be respected by the local Romani community. Similar crime prevention assistants have been working since 2015 in the Olomouc Region - for example, in Přerov - as well as in other towns country-wide.
"The Municipal Police in Hanušovice currently have just one patrol officer. We wanted to either close the department altogether or to add reinforcements, but we couldn't find anybody for the job," Mayor Marek Kostka said.
"For that reason, we decided roughly a month ago to establish the position of police assistants from the Romani community," the mayor said. The town chose to hire four Romani men between age 35 and 50 for the job who are said to be respected by the local Romani community.
"They wear a local police uniform that reads 'Local Police Assistant'. They do not have either handcuffs or weapons, rather, this is about monitoring the environment and crime prevention," the mayor said.
"The patrols are deployed on foot in high-risk localities, primarily at problematic times of day, such as the nighttime hours. They also aid with organizing events," Mayor Kostka said.
"They also monitor the behavior of schoolchildren during breaks in the school day," the mayor said, adding that it is very effective. A similar project is also underway for a fourth year in Přerov, where the town first sent crime prevention assistants into problematic areas in May 2015.
The assistants oversee public order in excluded localities and aid with addressing problems such as shopkeepers being harassed or parents covering for their children's truancy. The assistants in Přerov were also chosen directly from among the residents of those localities and are said to be respected by their neighbors.
Originally there were four Romani assistants to the local police there, then their number grew to eight, and now there are just four wearing the reflective vests on patrol, according to local police chief Omar Teriaki. Funding is the main reason for the fluctuations.
The assistants were originally paid for by the Czech Interior Ministry's crime prevention program as well as an employment subsidy from the Labor Office, but currently Přerov just has the ministerial subsidy for the job. "This project is currently for three years, it ends in 2020," the police chief said.
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