Clampdown on drugs begins

A dawn raid on a bar in central Athens yesterday marked the start of a new police zero-tolerance policy on drugs aimed to clear public spaces of dealers as well as addicts. About 40 officers, some of them armed, raided the Bizar bar on Aghiou Meletiou Street in downtown Athens at 6 a.m. as part of an initiative to smash the drug trade by starting at the bottom. The policy was agreed upon by senior police officers and top Public Order Ministry officials during a meeting on Tuesday. Police took some 90 people into custody as a result of the operation and recovered small amounts of hashish, heroine and cocaine. A senior officer told Kathimerini that the bar was a known haven for suspected criminals but, until now, the police had been afraid to raid it out of concern that a gun battle might break out. «We will not let them take a breath. We will hunt down users and dealers wherever they may be,» he said. Furthermore, authorities are pledging an immediate response to calls from the public with information to the Drug Squad hotline on 109, as they attempt to rid public places, such as squares and parks, of drug dealers and addicts. They say a similar zero-tolerance policy was successfully employed around Omonia Square at the start of the year. During Tuesday’s meeting, it was also agreed to immediately hire extra Drug Squad personnel. Meanwhile, Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis and Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis signed a memorandum of cooperation that proposes an exchange of information between the police and the municipal police force. They will also work together to target petty crime and to police major cultural events, train stations and areas where there are street traders or open-air markets. Under the pilot scheme, which could be extended to other Greek cities, municipal officers will be trained in various policing methods by police officers. «The common aim is to instill a feeling of safety in Athenians and to combat the problems that sometimes cast a shadow over the image of the city and indirectly or directly affect its citizens’ quality of life,» said Voulgarakis. A starting date for the plan will be announced in January.