The government’s strategy of boosting the presence of the Greek Police (ELAS) at potential targets appears to be the key reason for its ineffective response to an escalation of violence by self-styled anarchists in recent weeks.
As regards the act of vandalism against the residence of US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt on Wednesday by members of the anarchist group Rouvikonas, a recent change in police strategy appears to be at least partially to blame. Up until two months ago a police car would patrol the area around the US Embassy and adjacent ambassador’s residence.
However, following two recent incidents involving Turkish nationals who tried to enter the embassy grounds, authorities decided to keep the vehicle parked near the embassy. As a result, when members of Rouvikonas hurled paint at Pyatt’s residence early Wednesday in an action that it described as solidarity with the hunger striking November 17 terrorist Dimitris Koufodinas, there were no police officers on the scene.
According to ELAS sources, there are many instances of “frontline” services being moved to static guard duty outside potential targets.
On May 9, when anarchists ran rampage in central Athens, smashing storefronts, an order was given to bring in two riot police units from western Attica. A unit guarding a political office in nearby Kaningos Square was not moved.
Between 10 and 12 police cars are assigned to monitor the homes of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and other top government officials. A patrol car has even been assigned to guard a new statue of Alexander the Great in central Athens. This leaves few officers free to respond.
“When all forces are static and guarding targets, there is no one to pursue perpetrators after an attack,” a police source told Kathimerini.
Understaffing in the force compounds the problem, according to police sources. The motorcycle-riding DIAS rapid-response unit, which used to number 2,500 officers, has now dwindled to half its size, with just 1,200 members.
A recent spike in lawlessness has been highlighted by opposition parties, chiefly conservative New Democracy, which has pledged to boost public safety if it comes to power.