NEWS

Increase in the number of drug-related offenses carried out to feed a habit

Two murders within a month of each other in Omonia Square have put the spotlight on drug-related crimes. A 27-year-old Greek drug addict was killed in a vicious attack by two other addicts over a handful of pills. Previously, a 21-year-old Syrian was strangled in an attack by three Kurds, all addicts, who were trying to rob him. Drug-related killings are characterized as «extreme crimes» and usually occur in connection with the other side of the drug scene – organized crime. According to statistics, 30-40 percent of prison inmates in the European Union are drug addicts and 50 percent of arrests are drug-related. In Greece there are no statistics for the past few years since the law on the protection of personal data forbids mention of drug use among people arrested for crimes. Nevertheless, according to a confidential internal police document drafted as part of a crime-fighting policy plan, the incidence of drug-related crimes has been steadily increasing over the past decade and comprises a large percentage of total crimes. Those arrested on drug-related charges are often involved in various crimes such as theft and petty robberies but also bodily harm, prostitution, pimping, weapons-related offenses and other extreme crimes such as robbery and murder. Police officers estimate that almost 90 percent of some crimes, such as bag snatching, is by drug addicts. A heroin addict in the middle stage of dependency needs about 50 milligrams of heroin a day, at a cost of 45-50 euros, that is about 1,500 euros a month. At a more advanced stage of dependency, they need over 2,000 euros. After all personal and family finances have been exhausted, the next step is often crime. Meanwhile, many drug addicts become pushers in order to finance their habit. A police report estimates that each drug addict creates seven to eight more. In Greece, the problem of drug-related crime is particularly prevalent in Attica. Addicts from the provinces congregate in Athens for two reasons. The social stigma of being an addict in a small community drives them away to larger urban centers; furthermore, there is a greater chance of being included in a detoxification program in the city. Decentralization of rehab centers The internal report compiled by the Greek police presents a specific set of measures including the mobilization of all related agencies in a coordinated effort to fight the problem more effectively. With regard to the judicial handling of drug arrests, it recommends the activation of the law that allows them to enter a rehabilitation program in special therapy centers to get them off the streets for a suitable length of time and to have a chance at detoxification. Of course implementation of the law presupposes an adequate number of rehabilitation centers and a support program for inmates. The presence of rehabilitation centers, particularly centers for the distribution of drug substitutes such as methadone, has provoked opposition from residents of these areas. The police say this is largely because there are very few of these centers, so they attract large numbers. It has been suggested that smaller centers should be set up away from city centers to prevent the congregation of a large number of drug users in one area. Then there is the possibility of allowing major state hospitals to distribute the substitutes. That way the onus will be off the center of Athens and lead to a reduction in drug-related street crime around these central areas. A greater emphasis on prevention is also proposed, with ongoing information campaigns in schools, sports and entertainment centers. Efforts currently under way by a number of different agencies are not considered to be the best way to deal with the problem. The report suggests that one central agency, such as the Youth General Secretariat should coordinate the disparate efforts. Finally, rehabilitation into society is considered crucial if participants in detoxification programs are to stay clean.