Comeback for crime

The dwindling number of officers patrolling the streets of Athens has led to crime shooting up by a fifth in the city, just a year on from the heightened security of the Olympic Games, police sources told Kathimerini yesterday. Figures made public by the police yesterday showed that robberies, thefts and break-ins in July skyrocketed by more than 20 percent, while car theft increased by 7 percent compared to statistics for the same month in 2004. Central Athens was particularly hit by the rise, with the Acropolis and Omonia police stations among the busiest. Security at the same point last year was as tight as it has ever been in the capital, due to the hosting of the Olympics. Greece spent over 1 billion euros on security, including a state-of-the-art surveillance system. Policemen from all over Greece were drafted in to help patrol the capital and all leave was canceled. However, police sources said that the spike in crime cannot only be attributed to the fact that security levels in Athens have inevitably been reduced since last year. They point to the fact that crime actually fell during the first four months of this year – robberies, for example, were down by more than 20 percent and car crime by some 12 percent. Sources blame the rise on a lack of visible policing on the city streets, which has allowed petty crime to thrive. This has been brought on by a change in the setup of the force, which has seen more personnel deployed to police stations in a bid to improve the rate with which crimes are solved. But, sources said, taking officers off the streets has damaged crime prevention. The lack of both foot and car patrols has left neighborhood stores such as mini-markets, bakeries, betting shops and petrol stations particularly susceptible to opportunist thieves. Police also cannot call on the help of the high-tech system which the government invested in as part of the Olympics security drive after the Hellenic Data Protection Authority (APPD) ruled earlier this month that the 293 cameras installed in Attica as part of the program, known as C4I, for the Athens Games could only be used to monitor the capital’s roads.