Police boost presence in areas popular with tourists

This summer, police stations in Greek tourist destinations received 3,273 reinforcements to help deal with increased needs during the vacation period. Statistics from Greek Police (ELAS) Headquarters reveal that 29 police stations in tourist areas and 36 police and security departments that supervise airports received reinforcements. Apart from the islands, many seaside areas, Attica and Thessaloniki had additional police officers. ELAS drafted a special plan in early summer to decide on the number of extra officers for each area, according to the needs and requests expressed by local police chiefs. Most of the reinforcements were cadets from ELAS colleges. Public Order Ministry and police officials told Kathimerini that when the appointments were made in early summer, it was a real battle to send the extra police staff to remote areas. The ministry and the police were heavily pressured by third parties, including politicians who wanted to do someone a favor, to have their own cadets «posted next door to them,» as a senior officer said. They resisted the pressure and this year saw the greatest boost yet to police numbers in tourist areas. Needs and demands Once the requests of local police chiefs were analyzed, the needs of each area were classified into six categories, as follows: More travelers at airports. Scores of charter flights arrive at tourist destinations during the high season, increasing the need for controls at those entry points to the country. Moreover, as a senior police officer pointed out, in recent years passengers have felt uneasy when traveling, due to the fear of a possible terrorist attack. In psychological terms, it is important for them to see a strong police presence and checks being conducted at airports, which reinforce a sense of safety and the conviction that Greece is a safe tourist destination. Heavy traffic in tourist areas. Apart from Greek visitors who take their own vehicles with them on their holidays, many foreign tourists use rental cars while in Greece. As a result, there is an unusually heavy amount of traffic, often on narrow village roads that are not built for many vehicles. Many of the drivers are also young and inexperienced, police said. The summer policing plan provides for more checks for serious infringements, mainly alcohol tests since people on holiday tend to drink more than they would normally. There are also checks for traffic-related infringements, too. Rise in petty crime. Purse snatching is common in tourist areas, mainly on beaches, where swimmers leave their belongings unattended while they take a dip. Police officers patrolling in beachwear have proved effective in dealing with this sort of crime. Disturbance of public order. Increased alcohol consumption causes fights, even gang fights, usually among young tourists. This year, in addition to trying to control such situations, the police have made special provisions for areas where that kind of trouble is common. Places such as Faliraki on Rhodes attract swarms of young tourists whose only notion of entertainment is all-night drinking binges. As a senior police officer commented, the situation in such places gets out of control when youths are so drunk they cannot find their hotels and sleep in the street or the fields. This year checks on those areas were much stricter. Following inspections in Malia, Crete, 10 clubs were closed down and another seven are expected to be closed. Special emphasis has been laid on infringements of regulations regarding loud music, about which there have been many complaints, and all police stations in tourist areas are now equipped with decibel meters so they can conduct inspections. Constant checks Ministry officials said they insisted on effective policing of vacation spots this summer because tourism is one of the country’s most vital industries and the image of a safe destination is essential. Chief of the Greek Police Anastassios Dimoschakis and a team of senior officers carried out surprise visits to police stations in tourist areas, monitoring the implementation of the measures and deciding on corrective action where needed. Their conclusions will help planning for next season.