COMMUNITY

Authorities planning to boost city security in Athens

YIANNIS SOULIOTIS

TAGS: Terrorism, City Life

Officials from the Greek Police (ELAS) and the Ministry of Citizens’ Protection are in talks with Athens municipal authorities regarding a plan to place bollards (permanent or retractable) around the perimeter of the Greek capital’s historic center.

Officially, the plan is intended to curb illegal parking along pedestrian streets, but police officers involved in the discussions have revealed to Kathimerini that their main concern is to prevent a possible terrorist attack by vehicle, like those in Nice, London and more recently Barcelona.

According to information, the talks between police and municipal officials are taking place within the context of a memorandum of cooperation between the ministry and the City of Athens. The agreement was signed in late June and its details will be announced at a press conference at the end of this month.

The plan foresees an expansion of cooperation between ELAS and Municipal Police forces in the form of joint patrol and inspection units. Such units are already working together in efforts to crack down on street sellers peddling contraband products on Ermou Street in the city center. The plan also calls for a new police station to be opened in the historic center that will be manned by officers from both forces.

A meeting was held between members of the Movement of Citizens of Central Athens and municipal officials with Public Order General Secretary Dimitris Anagnostakis and high-ranking police officers on September 4 to discuss the progress of the plan.

In regard to the placement of bollards on the perimeter of the historic center – the area including the Acropolis, Strefi Hill and Omonia Square – well-informed sources have told Kathimerini that municipal officials were asked to report on the efficacy of the existing retractable bollards that were installed when Dimitris Avramopoulos was mayor of Athens from 1995 to 2002.

The response was rather disappointing, the same sources reported, as the system is out of operation. One of the sources said that “we need to turn to more permanent solutions, like cement bollards.”

Shop owners, meanwhile, are already expressing opposition to any measures that may restrict traffic in the city center, arguing that this would affect their deliveries.

Nevertheless, it is worth noting that other cities and police forces across the European Union have been putting such measures in place. In Amsterdam and Rotterdam, for example, municipal authorities are installing large planters that will prevent cars and trucks from driving into very central locations. Likewise, cement barriers have been erected in Madrid, Milan, Florence, Paris and other urban centers that may be targeted.

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