NEWS

More people fall prey to bag-snatchers

Anna pulled over at the side of the road with her window wide open. Cars raced past as she spoke on her phone. Nine o’clock on a Thursday night, and it was only a few minutes after she had left work. Anna had followed the same route that she did every evening, with the exception of the detour due to roadworks that channeled the traffic from Pireos Street to the river. Her handbag, a vivid red, had been lying on the seat beside her. A mistake. She should have tucked it under the seat, or in the trunk. She knew that, but… Fortunately, she’d had enough time to take out her cell phone. «Don’t talk while driving» – she knew that maxim too, but in a short while, the small object would be her most precious possession. At some point, the little road before the Kifissos was plunged into darkness after the last vehicle sped away into the distance. She had no idea where the shadow came from. There was only a deafening crack of breaking glass from the passenger seat window, and she glimpsed a hand reaching in and snatching what was on the seat. Desperately trying shift into first gear, she looked into the mirror. In the darkness, a figure appeared astride a motorcycle. Over his shoulder, the red bag could just be discerned. Twenty-six-year-old Anna’s story is nothing out of the ordinary. To it can be added the stories of Maria, 24, Tenia, 23, and hundreds of others. In 2002 alone, 3,885 women in Athens fell victim to bag-snatchers. Some were dragged along the ground, others were injured, others ended up in hospital, others live in fear today. Pantelis Yiannakopoulos, deputy police chief and head of the Department of Crimes Against Property of the Attica Security Police, said that the past two months have seen 170 attacks on people in vehicles and 450 on pedestrians. There may be as many as 15 to 20 incidents a day. «The increase or decrease in incidents depends on weather conditions. If anything good came out of the recent bad weather [mid- to late March], it was that we had a drop in such cases. From now on, however, we are expecting a rise as the weather improves.»