Candles and Crackdowns
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The Serbian government deployed police officers to schools across the country Monday following two mass shootings last week that stunned the Balkan country, leaving 17 dead and more than 20 wounded, Radio Free Europe reported.
Police officials announced Monday that they will deploy officers to primary and secondary schools, adding that the officers will be a “constant presence” during school hours.
Authorities said more than 120 student threats and indecent social media posts have been recorded in Serbia in the last few days.
Meanwhile, President Aleksandar Vucic added that police would increase patrols in streets and schools in the upcoming weeks to help the public regain a sense of security. He vowed that 1,200 officers will be deployed and the police presence “will reduce violence by 80 percent in less than a year.”
The new measures come days after Serbia experienced two mass shootings in the span of 48 hours.
On May 3, a 13-year-old suspect opened fire at his school in the capital Belgrade, killing eight students and a security guard. Police said the teenager had been planning the attack for months.
Two days later, a 21-year-old gunman in a moving car opened fire at pedestrians in villages near Mladenovac, south of Belgrade. At least eight people were killed and 14 wounded in the attack, carried out with an automatic weapon.
Mass shootings are rare in Serbia, which has one of the highest rates of gun ownership per capita in Europe. Gun control has been lax since the 1990s Yugoslav wars when many brought back weapons from battlefields, according to the Associated Press.
Vucic also announced an extensive weapons and ammunition control initiative that will involve an audit of all citizens who possess firearms, estimated to be around 400,000 people.
Meanwhile, opposition parties urged citizens to march in central Belgrade against violence on Monday, demanding the resignations of government ministers and changes to mainstream media that often host convicted war criminals and crime figures on their airwaves, the Washington Post reported, noting that the education minister had already resigned.
Thousands have lit candles in honor of the victims in recent days.