Police ‘fail’ to get a grip on Cretan crime

A police officer was fighting for his life but two others were out of danger on Crete last night after being shot late on Sunday during a raid on a cannabis plantation in the Malades area near Iraklion. The attack on the officers prompted local authorities to complain yesterday that the police presence on the island has not been strengthened enough in the wake of a similar incident in the mountain village of Zoniana last November. Doctors at the University Hospital in Iraklion said that 38-year-old policeman Theo-doros Genitsaradis had undergone an eight-hour operation after being shot in the head during the raid. His two colleagues, 31-year-old Giorgos Poulianakis and 46-year-old Yiannis Tsininikakis, suffered leg and shoulder wounds respectively. Their injuries were not life-threatening, doctors said. Police said that the officers had gone to the plantation with the aim of gathering more information in order to build a case to arrest the person cultivating the cannabis plants but were ambushed. One of the officers told colleagues that one person, using an automatic weapon, fired them on. Police numbers on the island were immediately increased as specialist officers arrived from other parts of Greece yesterday. Five suspects were rounded up for questioning yesterday but are not thought to be linked to the shooting, as neither of the injured officers could recognize them. Sunday’s incident was reminiscent of an incident last November when a group of officers attempted to raid Zoniana, a known hive of illegal activity. This led to Stathis Lazaridis, a 29-year-old policeman, being shot in the head and left partly paralyzed. The police presence on the island was beefed up after this as authorities tried to smash the criminal gang operating in Zoniana but local officials said yesterday that efforts have waned recently. Iraklion Prefect Evangelia Schinoraki told Kathimerini that as public interest in events in Crete had faded, so had the police presence on the island. She pointed to plans to build a large police station in Iraklion and post 250 officers there – which never materialized. Instead, Schinoraki argues, authorities are sending inexperienced officers to Crete who are not equipped to tackle the island’s heavily armed gangs.