In the Kosovo War of 1998-1999, the Kosovo Liberation Army fought against Serbia and Montenegro in protest of the persecution of Kosovar Albanians. Following the conflict, the UN sanctioned a NATO presence in Kosovo to uphold security amidst ongoing ethnic tensions, which began to introduce COP strategies, albeit in a top-down format with little public involvement. After 2004, the UN mission began to retreat, transferring more responsibility to the Kosovo government and the Kosovo State Police. After Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008, it has continued to receive assistance in state-building processes from international actors, most notably from the NATO-led Kosovo Force and the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX).
The Kosovo state police serves as the primary security provider for Kosovars, and are involved with communities when crimes are reported, and to a lesser extent for the prevention of crimes. Common complaints of police by youth respondents included slow response times, overly complicated reporting procedures, and a lack of confidentiality for victims and those who report crimes. While there is a general lack of public trust in Kosovo’s government institutions due to perceptions of widespread corruption and nepotism, the police remain the most trusted of these institutions. The justice system, which was reformed in 2013, established new courts in smaller municipalities, to bring court houses closer to citizens. Although EULEX plays a role in this process by providing prosecutors and judges to work in collaboration with their Kosovar counterparts, corruption is relatively widespread.
A traditional justice dispute resolution mechanism known as the kanun historically operated in some rural areas, although the extent to which they still operate is unclear. The kanun are village councils consisting of elders or interconnected families, which solve local conflicts based on traditional law. Although few Kosovars are closely familiar with the kanun today, it has been incorporated into modern mediation law and may still be in use to solve disputes.
Over the past years, crime levels have decreased in Kosovo. However, areas of North Kosovo continue to face ethnic tensions between Serbs and Albanians. The populations in these areas live in elevated fear of violent incidents. There is a widening degree of economic disparity that has increased as remittances from Kosovars living abroad have decreased; for more information, please see the following digital story: [Link to Digital Story:
This has caused further emigration, with Kosovars moving to other parts of Europe in search of better opportunities. There has been a fear of Islamic radicalization in Kosovo, as an estimated 350 Kosovars joined ISIL between 2012 and 2015. Additionally, organized crime exists in the country, as Kosovo is a transit point for smuggling, money laundering, and drug and human trafficking.
Kosovo has a very young population, with over half of the population considered to be “youth”. One in five students saying they do not feel safe at schools, with violence between classmates being commonplace and physical punishment by teachers still accepted. Many youths also distrust the police, feeling that they are ineffective in addressing crime.
Minorities in Kosovo may face discrimination, particularly when looking for employment, based upon political preference, personal appearance, ethnicity, religion, and gender. While gender-based violence (GBV) is not widely reported, this is largely suspected to result from a lack of awareness of GBV being a crime. Cultural factors within Kosovo emphasize patriarchal structures and the financial dependence of women, which can lead to women being vulnerable.
As a former Yugoslav state, Kosovo is familiar with some elements of community policing. Between the 60’s and 80’s, police were decentralized, and frequent police patrols contributed to broad knowledge of community security. In post-war Kosovo, COP was (re-)introduced as part of security reform. The reform has focused upon improving police training and organizational transformation, problem-solving orientation in police practices, and evaluations of strategies. Municipal Community Safety Councils were established in 2009 to address community security by including the mayor, police, religious and ethnic communities, and civil society (including minorities) in discussion – however, there may be low awareness of these initiatives. Finally, the KP have attempted some outreach catered towards youth including summer camps and traffic safety presentations, and the international community remains engaged to assisting COP initiatives, especially through Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP), and the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX).
There is a high level of mobile tech use among youth in Kosovo, and to a limited extent this has been incorporated into COP initiatives to facilitate police-community communication. This includes smartphones applications, like Girls Coding Kosova (which was developed by an NGO to address GBV and sexual harassment by providing a panic button that alerts police). In schools, records systems like the Educational Data Management System allow for teachers and police to collaborate to prevent school violence, and additional measures such as cameras and guards have been installed to provide increased security. Outside of urban areas, however, access to computers and internet connectivity limits the incorporation of ICT into policing.