Lebanon is currently facing one of the worst economic crises in its history, resulting in hyperinflation and devaluation of the Lebanese Lira.
Crime rates have significantly increased due to the financial state of the country, the 2020 Beirut Port Explosion, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Accordingly, the NGO Achrafieh2020, which has been working since 2012 “to reinvent Achrafieh as a breathable, welcoming, and friendly neighborhood,” has taken its mission a step forward to combat crime in the district, launching on November 7th the “Neighborhood Watch.”
It consists of a network of 120 young local people who act as “guardian angels” of the residents as of 6:00 p.m. and until 6:00 a.m. “in full coordination and cooperation with law enforcement agencies: Army, FSI, and Beirut Municipality,” the NGO explained on social media.
It further explained that it is operating its logistics with the Lebanese security company A.M.N. which was contracted for this initiative.
A call center has been also launched, operating around the clock, and can be reached at 76-643466.
Since then, members of the Neighborhood Watch can be seen around the area carrying torches and batons to ensure the protection of the Achrafieh neighborhood and the safety and peace of mind of its residents.
While many are praising the initiative, especially the residents, others have criticized it, comparing it to the 1975-1990 Lebanese Civil War, where militias would patrol the streets.
However, organizers are stating that Achrafieh2020 is simply filling the shoes of the country’s underfunded police force.
“First, we are not in a civil war. We’re not in a war situation,” stated MP Nadim Gemayel, founder of the Achrafieh 2020. “Second, we are in complete coordination with the police, the Mukhabarat (Intelligence Service), and all the necessary authorities that are needed to do our activity.”
Headed by Akram Nehme, Achrafieh 2020 is reportedly financed by locals and the Lebanese diaspora, as well as through fundraising.
At its core mission, in addition to improving the district and ensuring its safety, the NGO has been providing community support, from food and hygiene essentials to scholarships, medicines, and more.
It is currently running a Christmas Supportive Campaign.