Facts point to long-term unemployment as the main culprit in downgraded areas

It is the densely populated and multicultural neighborhoods of Attica’s western districts and the center of Athens that both Greek and foreign criminal elements have made their hunting grounds, according to statistics covering the past few years. Patissia, Kypseli, Ambelokipi. Omonia and Kolonos, as well as Menidi, Ano Liosia, Aegaleo, Aspropyrgos and Peristeri are where the most crimes are recorded. According to a confidential report by Attica Security (AS)’s internal operations division, nine districts in central Athens and six in the western suburbs are facing serious crime problems, with daily incidents of bag-snatching, muggings, and homes and parked cars being broken into. The main cause of the phenomenon is the high unemployment rate in these districts. The vast majority of offenders are described as young Greeks with no permanent jobs or the long-term unemployed. A previous survey by the Attiko Metro firm on income distribution in Attica found that the center and west are inhabited mostly by the low- and middle-income groups. About 35 percent of city center residents have low incomes, and another 35 percent middle incomes. In the west, particularly in Nikaia, Aegaleo, Haidari, Liosia and Menidi, over 45 percent are low-income, with only 5 percent earning high incomes. According to AS’s internal operations report, since 2002, the highest percentage of petty crime is concentrated in 31 areas. In order of frequency, these are Peristeri, Nea Smyrni, Patissia, Petralona, Palaio Faliron, Piraeus, Glyfada, Neos Cosmos, Ambelokipi, Acropolis, Ilioupolis, Halandri, Alimos, Kypseli, Menidi, Dafni, Nikaia, Kolonos, Nea Ionia, Haidari, Aegaleo, Maroussi, Neo Iraklion, Nea Philadelphia, Aghoi Anargyroi, Petroupolis, Holargos, Syntagma, Halkidona, Psychico and Kifissia. Only 10 percent of thefts are solved and just 30 percent of all robberies, since the perpetrators are not usually members of organized crime gangs but are «young, unemployed, poor, often dependent on drugs, and commit crimes as the occasion arises,» according to the police report. Apart from a very few cases, the same image emerges from arrests made since the beginning of the year in cases of petty theft, drug dealing and pimping. Since the beginning of this year, the Acropolis police station has made 1,124 arrests, the Acharnes station 949, Omonia 928, Ano Liosia 622, Aspropyrgos 539, Syntagma 452 and Exarchia 290. In the Neo Psychico and Palaio Psychico greenbelt suburbs, there have been only 42. Drug dealers are a threat to residents of the center, particularly in the area between Patissia and Kolonos, centered around Omonia and Vathis Squares. According to a senior drug squad officer, the problem is much worse in the center than in Western Attica, where the situation has settled down somewhat. «Over the last four years, we have been making daily patrols of Menidi, Zephyri, Ano Liosia and Aspropyrgos. While this has restricted drug dealing, it has not wiped it out,» said the official. The center and the western and northeastern suburbs remain high-risk zones for more serious crimes, such as aggravated theft and break-ins. According to Public Order Ministry statistics, of the 427 robberies in Attica last year, 191 were in the city center, 67 in the western suburbs, 51 in the northeastern suburbs and just 25 in southeastern Attica. The same picture emerges with regard to car and motorcycle thefts, since out of the 2,551 cases since the beginning of this year, 1,155 were committed in the center, 463 in Western Attica and 365 in northeastern Attica. Out of the 7,434 break-ins, 3,048 were in the city center, 1,116 in the west and 1,629 in the northeast. According to the experts, the northeastern suburbs have been subjected to a high rate of break-ins, as criminals tend to profit more from these areas.