NEWS

Deal on SE Europe crime database

Southeastern Europe is to acquire an electronic database containing information on the worst criminals in the area, regional police officials meeting in Thessaloniki over the weekend agreed yesterday. In what was seen as a major breakthrough among crime-fighting forces notorious for their reluctance to cooperate with one other – the meeting’s other major achievement was the exchange of telephone numbers between regional police officials – delegates at the conference organized by Thessaloniki police promised to contribute photographs and information to the database. All regional forces will have access to the electronic archive, and will keep it updated. The two-day conference, which ended yesterday, focused on fighting organized, cross-border crime, particularly that involving drug trafficking, people-smuggling, and illegal trade in weapons. Attendants said that 80 percent of all heroin sold in Western Europe comes through Turkey and the Balkans. Albania in particular, due to its geographic position, has become the principal heroin distribution point for all of Western Europe. According to Thessaloniki drugs squad officer Ioannis Tsolakis, Albania has also come to play a major role in the cocaine trade from South America to Europe. Albania is also the principal source of illegal firearms in the Balkans. Ioannina Police Chief Anastasios Katsaros told the conference that some 350,000 of the estimated 700,000 weapons stolen from Albanian army barracks, during the 1997 uprising by victims of a pyramid get-rich-quick scheme, are still in the hands of ordinary Albanian citizens and criminal gangs. About 1,000 illegal firearms have been confiscated in Greece each year since 1997.