Social issues, it seems, are world travellers. The world over, we are facing the same problems. My placement in London has shown me the problems within Macedonia are mirrored in the UK, in particular the relationship between  the police and the youth

The situation of young people in Macedonia is already known, their social exclusion and disinterest from deaf institutions when it comes to youth problems. But there is one problem that was put under the mat and is being ignored. The frequent stop and search of young people by police units, a problem that is currently being revived in the UK.

Last week, One Big Community made a panel discussion called “Wall of silence” at City Hall to figure out why young people are not talking to the police. Among the panel were NGO activists, David Cohen from the Evening Standard, Polly Courtney (author of Feral Youth) as well as members of the Youth Sector and police.

Topics of discussion were:

Why the police are increasingly making Stop & Search? 

Why most of them are young male black people? 

Do the police act with prejudice?

 

We started by looking at the data from the One Big Debate findings:

• Is all youth violence associated with gangs? – 94 percent of young people said NO.

• Is enough attention paid to female victims of youth violence? – 60 percent of young people said NO.

• Do rivalries that lead to youth violence start at school? – 58 percent of young people said YES.

• Do you trust the police? – 57 percent of young people said NO.

• Do you believe the police can keep you safe? – 60 percent of young people said NO.

Do you think there would be less youth violence if there were more job opportunities for young people? – 87 percent of young people said YES

From this, the debate continued finding the connection between youth and gangs. Touching on occurrence of youth violence, insufficient job opportunities for young people and the media who control and shape public opinion.

After the discussion three potential solutions for youth violence and stop and search were reached.

1.) Educate young people about their rights and how to make formal complaints 

2.) Include more media coverage of all positive things that young people do in order to change public opinion and prejudgment of the youth

3.) Encourage families to try and educate on rights and ethics at home

Stop and search is also an issue in Macedonia, in fact we have a special police unit, named “Alpha”. Many people complain of this police unit, but are frustrated by complaints falling on deaf ears

Five or six years ago, stop and search was more brutal. Their way of working was not like police officers, rather like the guys from the Hollywood Gang movies. Incidences were lengthy, unfairly conducted. Causing much friction between the two parties. However, if the police do not do stop and search, there will be anarchy on the street. So, the best solution is to start improving relations between police and the youth.

I believe that the situation in Macedonia today is not much changed, so it is time to learn something from the “modern West”. At the very least, we need to initiate interest in solving this problem, which is constantly ignored. This can begin with working on the relationship between the youth and the police. We need to start bridging the gap so one can help the other. Yes… It is time to start pulling down the Universal ‘Wall of silence’.