NEWS

Police take aim at crime for Olympics

Greece’s top police officials met in Athens yesterday to evaluate crime-fighting efforts, to plan strategy and to apply measures that have been drawn up in preparation for Athens 2004. Public Order Minister Giorgos Floridis, who was appointed on July 4, heard the views of police chiefs from all over the country regarding crime-fighting efforts in their regions and the particular challenges of each region. Floridis was also able to present his ministry’s priorities with regard to cracking down on crime while also improving the image of the police in citizens’ eyes. Special emphasis was placed on the Olympics. Aside from the security preparations, which are said to be going well, the Public Order Ministry is also concerned at the impressions of a lack of security caused by common crime. For example, the fact that there were 100 bank robberies in Attica in one year could create negative impressions and be used against Greece. The ministry is completing talks with the Hellenic Banks’ Association to upgrade security at banks and Floridis has said that banks will soon install security systems. Underscoring the urgency of this task, three bank robberies took place in Athens while the talks were being held, with a total 19,000 euros being stolen. One of the priorities in the strategy against crime is for the police force to reorganize itself and make better use of its personnel. The ministry wants to free police from non-police work and use them more productively. Kathimerini reported earlier this month that while police stations are often understaffed to the point of limited effectiveness, some 3,000 officers are still assigned to guard former cabinet ministers, journalists, businessmen and even television presenters. The total police force in Attica – where 75 percent of Greece’s crimes are committed – numbers 20,000. An estimated 6,000 policemen guard potential targets of crime or terrorism. About half of them guard embassies, public buildings, banks and foreign companies, and another 3,000 guard former ministers or members of Parliament, businessmen and others. With domestic terrorism routed, many officers are expected to be reassigned.