Polis anti-crime campaign sweeps up the lawbreakers

Police in Greece are trying a new system this year to fight crime – using large-scale operations to regularly target areas based on the type of crime there. Sanctioned by the Public Order Ministry and designed by the Greek police (ELAS), the operations are code-named Polis and have been successful enough to attract interest from other countries. Polis works like this: Greek police study criminal activity across the country, compile so-called «crime profiles,» and then sweep those areas. Police come into the area with evidence based on the intelligence and carry out their arrests. The method is very similar to the one used to locate and arrest illegal immigrants, a senior police officer said. But Polis operations differ from the immigrant-related sweeps. With the immigrant raids, the police presence was intense, and heavily armed officers carried out their inspections very publicly. With the Polis method, the police presence is more muted. Police should not give the impression of being an anti-terrorism unit and are to check as quickly and as discreetly as possible for crime. The Polis operations started on February 11, and so far there have been five of them, the most recent on April 8. Conducted all over Greece, the five operations employed 11,101 police officers who checked 68,580 people 7,697 stores and 43,548 vehicles. The police discovered 18,995 infringements of the law and arrested 2,611 people. Most of the arrests – 1,891 – took place in Attica. The most common offenses leading to arrests were infringements concerning immigrants, drugs, begging, weapons, vice, copyright, previous offenses and health regulations. The most dramatic case unraveled by Polis was the discovery and confiscation of four trucks carrying 20,755,500 smuggled cigarettes. The vast majority of arrests were for petty crimes. And petty crime is the target of the operations, the senior officer told Kathimerini. «Serious crime certainly has greater socioeconomic consequences,» he said. «But the average person isn’t affected by it. It is petty crime that troubles them. That’s what they encounter and feel is a threat to their security.» Before putting Polis into practice, the police collected crime data from around Greece, especially from large towns, and established which areas saw rising crime. Local police stations helped collect the information, since they are in the best position to observe and record what problems affect each neighborhood. The objective is to arrest as many offenders as possible and to clean up certain areas where crime is becoming entrenched. In Attica, police focused on the center of Athens and Piraeus and in certain more remote neighborhoods known for their high crime rate. In some areas, perpetrators were caught in the act of breaking into houses or stores during a Polis sweep. Particular emphasis has been placed on arresting individuals who have been convicted but have not served their sentence. Among those arrested were individuals with a long list of sentences and fines. Some of them had been sentenced as long as ten years ago. Many of them were engaged in crimes like tax fraud, passing dud checks and forgery. The Public Order Ministry and the police chiefs deem it vital to continue the operations. They hold regular meetings to keep track of areas where crime is growing, as petty crime tends to shift from one area to another. Every police station in Greece has been asked to make a full report of the outcome of each Polis operation to ELAS headquarters and the ministry. They record the number of checks made, infringements confirmed, and the number and cause of arrests. This is the first time the Greek police have made such a systematic record. Ministry officials say this process will enable them to chart crime in Greece and obtain a clear picture of the features of each area, in order to formulate new measures accordingly. These details are being taking into account in view of the planned reorganization of the police services throughout the country. More than 10,000 offenses recorded in a single day In the last Polis operation alone – conducted on April 8 – 5,230 police officers checked 34,642 people, 3,730 stores and 23,196 vehicles. They noted 10,210 offenses, arrested 1,304 people and found 32 stolen vehicles. In Attica alone, 2,438 police officers checked 16,123 people, 1,137 stores and 9,687 vehicles. They noted 5,079 offenses and arrested 798 people. In Thessaloniki, 386 police officers took part, carrying out 2,456 checks on people, 366 on stores and 1,721 on vehicles. They confirmed 1,075 offenses, and arrested 115 people. Data collected from all over Greece showed that most people in breach of migration laws were in the two major cities and in rural areas where they had gone to seek work. The large cities were also where most arrests for drug offenses took place. There were almost none in most other areas.