The Public Order Ministry yesterday announced a police shake-up intended to improve coordination in handling major crises, boost road safety on national roads and speedily process tens of thousands of pending asylum applications by immigrants. Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis told a press conference that the restructuring of the force would come into effect next year. The minister admitted that, as things are now, the police response to major crises and emergencies in general is hampered by a need to coordinate a series of disparate departments – which results in valuable time being lost. In order to overcome this problem, the ministry has decided to set up a new department that will incorporate special forces, bomb disposal experts and police helicopters, whose chief will be able to make direct decisions and issue orders in emergencies without deferring to a series of other senior officers. This department will be located in Athens, while a subsidiary branch will operate in Thessaloniki. Furthermore, the Attica and Thessaloniki aliens bureaus will be upgraded and a new department will be formed in Athens to handle applications for political asylum. Some 50,000 such applications are currently pending, many of which date back 10 years. On the matter of road safety, Voulgarakis announced plans to form 12 new traffic police stations that will monitor the national roads linking Athens with Patras and Thessaloniki. Apart from patrol duties, the stations – the first five of which will be set up near notoriously dangerous spots such as Aghios Constantinos and Thermopylae in central Greece, the Vale of Tempe in northern Greece, and Kiato in the Peloponnese – will also be responsible for reporting problems regarding lighting, road surface quality and signposting.