By Peter Stevenson
LOCAL municipalities will be handed more responsibilities, including issuing fines to motorists and club and bar owners found breaking the law, so that the police can concentrate on solving serious crimes, the Justice Minister said.
Ionas Nicolaou said that all of the plans to change and restructure the police force will soon be completed and presented to the Cabinet for approval.
According to the new changes, local authorities will be able to issue fines and be directly responsible for animal welfare and local beaches.
The justice ministry is trying to promote the measures as part of the restructuring of the police force so that municipal workers will be able to fine offences that only police were able to in the past.
Currently municipal traffic wardens can only give fines for certain traffic violations within town limits. Officials will also be able to issue fines for illegal smoking, check bars and clubs if they have the necessary permits, how long they are allowed to remain open and if they are causing noise pollution.
Traffic wardens will also be able to fine motorists for violations other than speeding, not wearing a seat-belt and helmet, and carrying out alco-tests. Municipal violations subject to fines include running red lights, leaving a car unlocked, exceeding the number of passengers, illegally changing lanes and for tinted windows.
Municipalities will also be responsible for the safe-keeping of beaches and swimmers and under the new programme all local authorities will have the same responsibilities mapped out.
Nicolaou said that this new measure is aimed at helping police deal exclusively with serious crimes and not have to worry if a club or bar has shut at the correct time or if they are playing music too loudly.
The minister repeated that he believes that the police force will be restructured by the beginning of next year.
“The plan to restructure the police force is aimed at making it more efficient,” he said.
The plan, which is slowly being implemented, has already achieved a 40 per cent saving on its budget, according to the justice ministry, primarily by merging departments that were performing the same job.
“As part of the restructuring plan, a study was completed by experts which has been sent to the police leadership which will then see certain departments and services merging,” he said.
The minister explained that certain clerical or office duties would be carried out by constables with less experience so that more experienced officers would not waste their time on paperwork and could perform other more important duties.
“We seek to take advantage of police personnel as best we can to become more efficient and to meet our responsibilities,” he said.