NEWS

Athens shop owners promised more police patrols

Owners of shops in central Athens were assured on Monday by Citizens? Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis that police patrols would be stepped up as recent operations had led to crime around Omonia Square dropping but incidents increasing in other parts of the capital.

Papoutsis met with representatives of the General Confederation of Greek Small Businesses and Traders (GSEVEE) and told them there would be regular foot patrols in the city center and that officers on motorcycles would also be on duty. Store owners are hoping Christmas shoppers will help them close out a poor year on a high in terms of revenues. But they are concerned fears of crime may keep customers away.

Police figures indicate that robberies in the Omonia area fell by 38 percent between January and September this year as a result of more intensive policing, but many store owners complain that this has led to crime, including drug trading and pickpocketing moving to other parts of the city center. Crime statistics show that there was a rise in the number of offenses being reported at police stations in Acropolis, Syntagma and Exarchia.

A police source said that the force is making efforts to broaden its patrols so they do not focus just on the Omonia area. Papoutsis said that 2,000 extra officers had been placed on duty since October.

Among those hoping that central Athens might enjoy a revival are hotel owners. The Hellenic Chamber of Hotels held an event on Monday to lament 18 hotels in Athens this year being forced to close. The chamber?s president, Giorgos Tsakiris, said that their closure was mainly a result of the authorities? failure to prevent parts of the city center being overrun by crime and destitution.