Peak in thefts linked to crisis

Crime, particularly thefts and burglaries, have peaked significantly in Greece, according to police statistics for the first six months of 2011 that were made public on Friday.

The increase – particularly sharp in Attica – has been linked by some to the repercussions of Greece?s financial crisis, which has resulted in marginalized groups such as undocumented immigrants being pushed further into the fringes of society.

Nationwide, robberies increased by 30 percent in the first six months of the year, compared to the same period in 2010, with burglaries skyrocketing by 132 percent during the same period.

Other offenses also saw a spike: cases of fraud rose by 27 percent, extortion by 50 percent, forgery by 56 percent and illegal trade by 84 percent.

In Attica the increases were even sharper, with a 266 percent rise in muggings on post office workers, a 180 percent hike in church breakins and a 117 percent increase in burglaries.

The northern port of Thessaloniki saw one of the sharpest increases in burglaries – a 150 percent hike. Street muggings increased by the same rate. Extortions shot up by 155 percent and cases of forgery by 188 percent.

Similarly high rates of crime were reported in many cities in central Greece.

On Friday, police in Larissa detained nine Bulgarian nationals believed to be members of a crime ring behind a string of thefts and burglaries in the prefectures of Larissa and Fthiotida. In many of the raids, the suspects are alleged to have used violence, gagging their victims.

Bulgarian nationals have also been linked to crime rings operating in Athens, as have Albanians as well as Greeks. Migrants from Africa and Asia also account for a large proportion of crime suspects, according to police.

In July, the City of Athens heralded a pilot scheme that will introduce neighborhood policemen into several downtown districts in a bid to foster greater trust between residents and the municipal force.

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