NEWS

Many police officers but little security

Greece has one of the highest ratios of police to population in Europe. A survey carried out a few months ago by VPRC for Kathimerini revealed that Greece has one police officer for every 214 citizens, compared with Austria (1:273), Estonia (1:389), Denmark (1:386), Spain (1:208) and France 1:417). Spain is the only one with higher rate per citizen. But when special guards, border guards, police of special duty and police cadets are included in the figure, bringing the total strength of the force up to 54,000, then the ratio of police to population goes to 1:198. The police certainly have some successes to their credit, such as the recent arrest of Nikos Palaiocostas, who had been on the run for 16 years. But that is more a question of honor for the police than a matter of combating the petty crime that plagues the public and erodes their sense of security. Police numbers may look impressive on paper, but the reality, of understaffed offices and other problems, reveals size isn’t everything. Directors complain of staff shortages while members of the public complain about delays in police responding to calls. Section heads often state they are unable to implement police measures and that the lack of staff hinders them from investigating crimes promptly. And 69 percent of poll respondents told the VPRC poll that they do not see regular police patrols in their neighborhoods. So where are all those police officers and their visible presence? Their absence does not meet the demands of the public as indicated in the poll, where 94 percent of those questioned wanted more police patrols, seeing them as the most effective means of combating crime. Official Greek Police (ELAS) police records show that of the total of the 54,000-strong force, 87 percent are in active policing departments and the rest in various offices. The active 87 percent is divided up into work in security (19 percent), traffic policing (8 percent), and law and order (60 percent).