‘They hang out near OKANA’

Police officers from either the local Omonia station or the crime prevention squad patrol the square every day. They cross the square in twos and threes, occasionally checking the identity documents of passers-by, and leaving a few minutes later. Their presence rarely brings about any change to the usual image of the square, and they look like an integral part of the scene in Omonia at night. «Every day it is the same old game. As soon as the police arrive, the drug users move away for a while, go around the square and through the arcade to take up their positions again. It’s a real hide-and-seek game. The more daring ones come back earlier because they’re afraid they’ll lose the drugs they hid when leaving the square, or that someone else will get to them first,» a security guard at the biggest hotel in the area told Kathimerini. Officers from the drug squad are well aware of what is going on, but say they are unable to do anything to change the image of the square. Though high-ranking police officers told Kathimerini that seven to 10 drug users are arrested every day in Omonia, police sweeps have brought little change. «The problem is constantly recycled,» they explained. «One day we catch them, the next day we see them in the same haunts. We have even arrested the same person twice on two consecutive days. Nothing is done to stop them from being set free to return or send them to rehabilitation centers.» As Katsabe explained, users hang out at places where there are offices of the OKANA organization against drugs. The police agree: «That’s where the users and dealers hang out. One sells to the other and soon it becomes a drug-dealing haunt. It is typical that as soon as OKANA moved from Eressou Street to Sophocleous Street, the problem moved from Exarchia to Psyrri,» commented a senior drug squad officer. «The problem is that many of those who are dependent on substances are addicted to many drugs. They take substitutes and then go and use heroin,» he said.