Serbia emerged as a republic following the dissolution of Yugoslavia during the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990’s. Following this period, Serbia went through an economic crisis, amidst ongoing ethnic tensions and the 10-year regime of Slobodan Miloševic. It underwent further fragmentation as the union with Montenegro was dissolved in 2006, and in 2008 when Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence. In 2014, Serbia started accession negotiations with the European Union.
The police in Serbia are organized under the Ministry of Interior. In general, the police are associated with corruption, and for serving the state rather than its citizens. Since 2001, a variety of international actors have supported Serbian security reform, most notably the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) – Mission to Serbia, which has released several strategic COP documents.
Petty crimes such as aggravated theft, robbery, and vehicle theft are decreasing in Serbia, but organized crime remains a concern. Serbia is on the main route for narcotic transport and other smuggling and trafficking operations from Eastern Europe, and gangs may often perpetuate violence using firearms and explosives during feuds. Corruption, unemployment, poverty and domestic violence are also primary insecurity concerns.
Youth are one of the groups that are particularly vulnerable in Serbia, as they are both victims of violence as well as the group most frequently accused of committing crimes. The LGBT community faces discrimination and hate crimes, and human rights activists who stand up for these groups have also been threatened. Ethnic minorities, particularly the Roma community, also face discrimination. In recent years, some police have encouraged Roma to join them to improve representation, and other programs aim at promoting the social inclusion of Roma.
Women in Serbia face high levels of domestic violence. State efforts to address this include laws that remove violent perpetrators from families and improved record-keeping of violent offenses. As a result, domestic violence has decreased alongside an increase in public awareness, and Serbia has risen in the Gender Equality Index.
Serbia experienced something akin to community policing due to the Yugoslav concept of “social self-protection” in policing. This consisted of decentralized police forces that patrolled regularly, leading to broad police knowledge of local communities. However, during the 1990 wars, the police protected the regime, resulting in a more repressive form of policing. Serbia has since received help from various international agencies as part of security reform processes. This included the promotion of COP programs and initiatives, with OSCE being the main actor, but with other projects in areas of Serbia aided by the UK, Switzerland, Norway, Canada and Sweden.
As a result, a manual on COP was published in Serbia that included an overview of COP definitions, concepts and terminology, and in 2018 a 5-year strategic police plan that included COP efforts was released by the Ministry of Interior. However, government COP efforts have failed to engage the local population. Nevertheless, Serbia has seen positive developments. For instance, Local Security Councils (LSCs) have been established with help from OSCE and the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities. LSCs unite representatives from local authorities, the education sector, NGOs and the police to identify local community problems and increase public awareness of mitigation efforts. Police also perform other types of outreach, such as visiting schools and creating awareness about domestic violence.
Despite low adoption of ICT for COP purposes, relatively low public internet use, and low values of e-government-related indicators, there are efforts to incorporate communication technology into security provision. Multiple hotlines provided by both the state and NGO’s exist to report cases of domestic violence against women and children, and some web applications have been developed by NGO s to verify levels of COP implementation within communities.