Residents crack down on drug addicts

Residents and storeowners on busy Stournari Street and surrounding roads in the central district of Exarchia have managed to evict crowds of drug users from their neighborhood after months of overtures to police.

?The residents acted independently because, despite their constant appeals, the enduring problem of large groups of drug addicts congregating in their neighborhood failed to be addressed,? municipal councilor Giorgos Apostolopoulos told Kathimerini.

?An intervention by the state would have stopped citizens from assuming the role of the police,? he added.

According to lawyer Mina Mavreli, the tactics of residents and shopkeepers were very basic. ?They started shouting at a group of drug users outside the National Technical University of Athens and broke up the crowd,? she said.

The same tactic was repeated several times and now, whenever drug addicts start to gather in the area, they are faced with crowds of angry locals and quickly disperse, Mavreli said.

Some residents object to this approach, noting that moving the addicts a few blocks away does not tackle the root of the scourge. ?It is easy to push users to the next street along but that doesn?t solve the problem,? said Georgia Blani, a spokesperson for a residents? initiative.

?The solution should be offered by the state, not by groups of citizens,? she said.

As for the police, they note they have other problems to deal with in the area, including the presence of self-styled anarchists. At the end of last month, four plain-clothes officers patrolling the area to crack down on drug use and trade came under attack from suspected anarchists.

?The anarchists think the presence of police in Exarchia has to do with them and them alone. That makes our job very difficult,? a top-ranking officer told Kathimerini.

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