NEWS

Delta squad to patrol more cities

The Delta squad, set up to tackle outbursts of violence in central Athens following an unprecedented spree by hooded vandals in the upmarket district of Kolonaki in mid-March, is to be extended to other parts of the capital and to Thessaloniki, Kathimerini has learned. According to Interior Ministry sources, an additional 1,500 special guards will be recruited to police troublesome districts of Athens and Thessaloniki on motorcycles. Despite widespread criticism about the efficiency of the existing Delta squad in the city center, a ministry source expressed optimism about the unit’s prospects. «About 80 percent of crime is in Athens and Thessaloniki. If we can tackle the problem there, the image of the police force will change dramatically,» the source said. Yesterday Delta squad officers detained at least 10 fans of rival Athens soccer teams Ethnikos Asteras and Atromitos believed to have been involved in a brawl in Kaisariani, eastern Athens. Earlier this month, officers from the same unit arrested two hooded youths believed to have been involved in clashes in central Syntagma Square. But doubts have been raised about the overall effectiveness of the rapid-reaction force in Athens, with many suggesting that the squad might suffer the same fate as previous units in the past and be disbanded. Criticism began in the very first week of the squad’s operation in early April when a 30-year-old officer was shot in the head after a standoff with two gunmen in the central Athens district of Kypseli. The squad’s presence in Thessaloniki is to begin with 50 or 60 officers being dispatched to patrol the city’s busiest districts on motorcycles. The officers, who will patrol the city’s crime hot spots in groups of between five and 10, are to focus on curbing outbreaks of vandalism and petty crime.