By Bejay Browne
FRUSTRATED residents of Peyia in Paphos that were so proud of their neighbourhood watch scheme – the first on the island – have formed a new community-based organisation because they believe the original initiative has suffered since being taken over by the local municipality.
The Peyia Neighbourhood Watch scheme took several years to set up prior to its 2010 launch, and although at first it was an independent initiative, it was supported by the Cyprus police who regarded it as a successful pilot scheme.
A government decision to then establish neighbourhood watch schemes all over the island placed their control under the local authorities who were to manage and fund them in cooperation with police.
But Peyia residents say that since the local authorities took over the running of the scheme, it has all but ground to a halt, and they have decided to set up Peyia Community Services, PCS, a website dedicated to community matters, security and information.
“We kept approaching the municipality and the mayor at the beginning to try and support the scheme and offer our assistance and help, but we were shut out completely,” said resident Graham Gurley.
He said that the decision to start the website was taken after he and other scheme members had visited the municipality and the mayor’s office more than 20 times, but that no interest was forthcoming.
“We really feel for the police who are doing their best with limited resources but aren’t given the support from the local authorities,” he said, adding that the police had recently arrested three people, helped by information supplied by PCS.
Gurley said that the municipality has shown little interest in working with the PCS since it was set up a year ago.
The exception it seems is Peyia vice mayor, Marinos Lambrou, who is listed on the site as ‘community liaison’, and is also standing in the upcoming mayoral elections.
“I wanted to join this scheme as it’s important to let the community know what is going on where they live. This could be a model for other towns in Cyprus and is a great help for residents,” he said.
“I support the neighbourhood watch scheme but I don’t know why there isn’t support from the municipality,” he said, “especially as 50 per cent of crime in Cyprus – like burglaries – takes place in Peyia.”
Peyia is home to the largest expat community on the island, and non-Cypriot residents out number locals during the summer months he said.
The PCS website, which carries a section on safer neighbourhoods and security, also has information about local interests, events and news stories.
“We have around eight hundred to one thousand members, a lot from the initial neighbourhood watch are with us. We want to impart local information and keep people up to date. We want the community to come together and we don’t want to have boundaries separating us,” said Gurley.
Peyia councillor, Linda Leblanc, also supports the PCS, and welcomed the community-based scheme. She agreed that since the municipality has taken over the neighbourhood watch scheme, ‘nothing much has happened.’
“Nothing has been done by the municipality and they don’t seem to be interested in cooperating with the PCS.”
Mayor of Peyia, Neophytos Akourshiotis, said he was unable to give exact figures of the numbers of residents that had signed up to the neighbourhood watch scheme.