Rumburk - Ethnic tensions in the North Bohemian town, home to roughly 11,000 people, are growing after some members of the local Roma community attacked a group of people on Sunday 21 August. One of the victims was seriously injured.
Mayor of Rumburk Jaroslav Sykáček asked Interior Minister Jan Kubice to solve the pressing security situation in the region. "It is important to enforce police patrols and enhance the authority of the cities," said Sykáček in the open letter, adding that there is a real threat of people founding vigilante groups.
The issue of racial tension, social exclusion, and criminality in the Northern Bohemian town is alarming especially after the recent violent riots and looting in England, widely believed to be contributed to by the very same social ills. After the riots, some commentators and analysts in the Czech Republic warned that similar events may happen also in Czech socially excluded communities and Roma ghettos.
The spokesman to the interior ministry Pavel Novák said that Kubice has asked the Czech police to prepare a report on the situation in Rumburk, and plans to meet with Jana Vaňhová (Czech Social Democracy), the governor of the Ústí region where the municipality is located.
The town struggles with high crime rates and small number of police officers. In addition, the cuts planned for January 2012 are expected to further shrink the Rumburk police force.
The mayor believes that in case of further decrease of the police force, people may react by turning to vigilantism.
Rumburk's high criminality - in the first four months of 2011, the number of thefts increased 250 percent - is believed to be caused by a high number of socially excluded people moving to the municipality from the Ústí and Liberec regions. In 2010, 308 people moved to Rumburk. This year, it has been 199 so far. "We believe, and now I am not speaking only for myself, but also for citizens and municipality police officers, that most of them are problematic," said mayor Jaroslav Sykáček to Aktualne.cz.
Sykáček believes that people are attracted to Rumburk by favorable prices of local real estate which are much lower than in the Teplice or Chomutov municipalities.
"The legislative possibilities (to solve the situation) are very limited," the mayor complained.
Frantiček Kostlan from Romea, a civic organization focusing on the issue of coexistence between the Roma minority and Czech majority, agrees that the situation is urgent. "Moving socially weak people into ghettos on one side and decreasing the number of police corps on the other could lead to a real trouble," said Kostlan, adding that the state is doing nothing to solve the problem.
Recently, the number of racially-motivated attacks is increasing Northern Bohemia's municipalities.