NEWS

Crime fighting at risk

Failure to replace retiring police officers and an unusually high number of law enforcement employees on sick leave has resulted in the serious understaffing of police headquarters in central Athens, a source said yesterday. A senior police officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Kathimerini that 2,000 law enforcers retired last month, effectively leaving headquarters with a total staff of 12,500. According to official Public Order Ministry figures, the number of law enforcement officers that appear on the organization’s chart should reach 21,000. «The situation is borderline. If something is not done soon to boost staff numbers, the danger of losing the battle against crime is not just visible but almost certain,» the source said. Headquarters’ policing abilities are likely to be further tested in June, with 2,000 more officers slated for retirement. «The danger of a large increase in crime rates is immediate,» the source added. The government has been under increased pressure recently to step up policing of the capital after a series of highly publicized break-ins and robberies took place over the Christmas period. Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras responded to mounting concerns over community safety levels by stating crime rates are not rising and have recently dropped slightly. Another problem weighing on policing services is the high number of officers that call in sick every day. About 17 percent of officers, or some 2,500 people, avoid work at headquarters by falsely calling in sick, the source added. «Apart from those who genuinely need to take sick leave, we have a significant number of lazy officers who claim to be suffering from different health problems, even psychological problems, so that they don’t work,» the source explained. Figures show that just under 10,000 officers have been appointed to guard embassies, ministries, Parliament and VIPs. Additionally, 150 staff members escort prisoners being transported, while another 380 police officers accompany petty criminals to the city’s courts.