Turkey to triple number of local watchmen

The number of publicly employed local watchmen will rise from around 8,000 to over 25,000, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has announced during a swearing-in ceremony.

While the presence of local watchmen on Turkish streets was deemed unnecessary in 2008, the role was revived in 2016. Soylu’s statement heralds an astonishingly swift rise in their numbers from just a few thousand in 2017.

Local watchmen, who like police have the authority to carry weapons, are tasked with guarding markets and shopping centres, a duty they are taking on from the police, and also walk beats at night in Turkish towns and cities.

“I want to hear the sound of watchmen’s whistles outside while I am in bed at night, and to hear that someone is on the streets looking out for our citizens as they sleep,” Soylu quoted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as saying at the ceremony.

The large influx of local watchmen will relieve some pressure on Turkey’s police force, which has lost thousands of officers in purges since the failed July 2016 coup attempt.

700 more local watchmen blew their official whistles for the first time to mark their induction during Soylu’s ceremony.