Calls for govt to tackle Roma issues continue

Škocjan/Šentjernej, 4 July - Amid renewed warnings about Roma-related issues and calls for systemic measures, two municipalities in southeastern Slovenia have underlined their concerns and doubled down on their calls for the government to come up with measures to mitigate rising crime rates, which they say are mostly a result of violent Roma individuals.

The Škocjan and Šentjernej authorities are worried as the local police recorded a 38% increase in the number of reported criminal offences in the first half of this year.

Year-on-year, one of the biggest increases has been recorded when it comes to property crime - at 23%.

On the other hand, the Šentjernej police station, which covers both municipalities, recorded a drop in public order offences - in Šentjernej by 65% and in Škocjan by 38%, said the Novo Mesto Police Department, which is in charge of a large area that includes the two municipalities.

The decrease is in line with the general trend in the Novo Mesto area, but the recorded increases are not, since the number of criminal offences in the broader area in the first half of the year dropped by 12% and the number of property crime offences by 5%.

The Škocjan and Šentjernej authorities believe that the localised increases are mostly a result of violent Roma groups or individuals, including minors, but the police cannot confirm that as they do not track Roma-specific crime numbers.

They are aware though that the security situation of the area is closely related to the local Roma issues, and they are doing all they can to reduce the number of offences, said Robert Perc from the Novo Mesto Police Department.

He added that the recent crime rate rise was in part attributed to the general trend of more crime reports and incidents in the run-up to the summer and the fact that people had been recently more likely to report criminal offences, including minor crimes.

Meanwhile, Škocjan and Šentjernej representatives have been pointing the finger at Roma individuals or groups.

Škocjan Mayor Jože Kapler convened an emergency session of the municipal council on Wednesday to discuss the matter after he assessed that the authorities could no longer ensure security in the area.

Speaking for the STA, he said a number of physical assaults by Roma minors had been recorded in recent weeks. A group of them attacked, for example, a locally famous shoemaker Rudolf Lopatec and later a Bosnian lorry driver who made a stop in the area.

Several arson attacks have recently occurred in the municipality, including one at a kindergarten in a Roma settlement for which criminal charges have been filed against three Roma minors, the mayor added.

Attending the session, police representatives confirmed that they have been recording an increase in the number of crimes committed by minors, while local Roma representatives and social workers did not respond to the invitation to attend.

The councillors called on the government to guarantee safety in the municipality and the entire Dolenjska region and immediately prepare the measures that were promised to tackle the issues.

There are 3,500 residents in the Škocjan municipality, of whom roughly 9% are Roma people.

The authorities of Šentjernej, a town some ten kilometres south of Škocjan, are also concerned, reporting about similar issues, such as store thefts and assaults, and urging the government to take action.

Mayor Jože Simončič believes that the situation is mostly a result of high unemployment rates and low school attendance rates in the Roma community.

A renewed wave of warnings and calls for action to tackle the Roma-related issues, especially in Brežice and municipalities in the southeast, was sparked by an incident in June involving a Roma student who attacked his peer in a primary school in the Brežice municipality.

© STA, 2024