An increase in policing in the city?s historic center has had little impact on reducing the rate of crime, with members of local rackets simply moving a few blocks away during the day and then returning to their pitch at night, residents lobbying for more security in the area have told Kathimerini.
Last month, Citizens? Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis heralded a police crackdown in the crime-ridden historic center. Since then, the presence of police in the area – both on foot and vehicle patrols – has almost doubled. On some days, 600 officers patrol the historic center alone, according to police sources.
But the measures appear to have fallen short of expectations, shifting the problem temporarily elsewhere rather than tackling it effectively.
One local resident told Kathimerini that the Somali and Nigerian drug dealers that have been operating around Omonia Square for the past few months often move a few blocks away to Panepistimiou Street during the day to avoid the increased police presence before returning to their usual turf at night.
Meanwhile the illicit trade of drugs at Vathi Square appears to have shifted to the equally run-down area around Larissis railway station. Petty crime focused in and around Koumoundourou Square – a hangout for dozens of destitute immigrants and drug addicts taking their fix – is edging toward the neighborhood of Petralona, some locals say.
According to sources, hundreds of immigrants believed to be members of crime rings are operating in the center and hundreds more people with drug addiction problems are believed to be falling victim to rackets and resorting to petty crime to get their next fix.
A police source told Kathimerini that the different groups could not be dealt with in the same way. ?For some of these groups, like the drug addicts, the police cannot do anything,? the source said.
Dimitris Nikolakopoulos, the coordinator of a citizens? group lobbying for improvements in the historic center, claimed that police had not made good on a pledge to provide 24-hour policing in the area.
?At night the images of shame and horror return to the streets,? he said, referring to clashes between hundreds of migrants of different ethnic origin arguing about the control of the drug trade in different quarters and prostitution.