Police officers think foreigners are responsible for the rise in criminal activity in the last decade

Although Greek police officers do not show the warmest feelings toward migrants, they do devote some effort to understanding the particular problems of this group of the population and declared that in every case their personal attitudes and opinions do not affect their behavior as the «instruments of public order.» The 412 policemen from all ranks that took part in the study conducted by Vagena-Palaiologou presented a contradictory image in their responses, similar to those of the judges. They considered that Greek society is negative toward migrants but said their own attitudes were less unfavorable. More specifically: 1. They seem to blame foreigners for the rise in crime but a large number of the respondents attributed the criminal activity of foreigners to poverty and poor living conditions, suggesting a rather sensitive attitude. Like judges, the police (92.2 percent) said they believed that there had been a rise in crime in Greece in the past decade. Most of the respondents (57.5 percent) thought that foreigners were partially responsible and 35.9 percent said that foreigners were exclusively to blame. Even though 56.6 percent of the police questioned claimed that foreigners were more likely to be offenders than victims, a significant percentage (40 percent) said they believed that foreign offenders were in reality also victims, as their illegal entry and residence in Greece made it impossible for them to escape their predicament. 2. According to the study, 27.3 percent of the police respondents attributed crime among migrants to poverty and poor living conditions and 21.8 percent to lack of respect. The majority of respondents (42.8 percent) said that a combination of poverty, poor living conditions and lack of respect were the main causes for criminal activity among migrants. 3. Although the majority of the police respondents (71.8 percent) thought that foreigners fully enjoyed legal guarantees when settling their differences in court, a small number (26.9 percent) thought otherwise. This is attributed to two factors: the country and authorities (lack of preparation, prejudice of those in power) and the migrants themselves (fear and poverty). Nevertheless, a small percentage of the respondents (13.6 percent) expressed the opinion that foreigners should be handled with greater severity depending on the type of offense, their nationality, their behavior and be deported immediately with force. 4. The police expressed fear toward foreigners as regards the labor market. The large majority of the police who took part in the study (72.3 percent) thought that the presence of foreigners exacerbated the country’s unemployment problem. 5. A significant percentage (43.9 percent) of the police force expressed neutral and negative sentiments toward foreigners. 6. The majority of the police (58.7 percent) said they believed that public opinion was negative toward the foreigners living in Greece. The police (55.8 percent), as in the case of the judges, appeared to be racist toward foreigners in their behavior. Interestingly enough, the younger police respondents had a more hostile attitude toward foreigners living in Greece. Moreover, of all the responses, the police occupying higher positions thought that migrants in Greece were not many, were not responsible for the rise in crime and did not contribute to unemployment problems, in comparison to their lower-grade colleagues. They also expressed more sympathy toward foreigners and less antipathy and fear. In the Vagena-Palaiologou study on the Greek police in Attica, interviews were conducted at 10 police departments (the Omonia department included) with the police force leadership, two major-generals, 10 brigadiers, 33 police directors and deputy directors, 122 grade A and B police officers and police lieutenants, 115 police constables, 70 warrant officers, 57 chief wardens and two special guards.

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