Armed thefts force police rethink

A string of recent, violent bank robberies in Athens has prompted authorities to call for heavier policing, sources said yesterday, as thieves appear to be getting bolder and more creative in their methods. Senior officials met at police headquarters yesterday to decide how to handle the sharp increase in robberies, just hours after the latest holdup turned violent, injuring two people. In Votanikos, central Athens, a security vehicle transporting about 4 million euros was attacked after thieves blocked off a lane at an intersection on Iera Odos by double-parking two stolen jeeps. As a result, the security vehicle was limited to one traffic lane when it stopped at a red light. Two motorbikes, carrying two people each, then approached the security vehicle and began shooting at the driver and passenger. The driver was hit in the leg but managed to drive the vehicle away from the lights before crashing into a street-cleaning truck, injuring its driver. The would-be robbers then abandoned their efforts and sped away from the scene. Daytime thefts involving banks, post offices and supermarkets have become an everyday event in Athens with the robbers on many occasions using guns to get what they want. Police believe that about 10 gangs operate in Attica and are responsible for the violent holdups, sources said. Police units were instructed to step up investigations into thefts, while officers also appealed to security firms to help discourage aspiring thieves. Security firms are being asked not to transport such large amounts of cash and also to alter the routes taken by vehicles transporting money.