City cleanup gets mixed reception

An intensified police sweep of the historic center of Athens over the past week has reportedly succeeded in cleaning up most of the areas worst affected by spiraling crime, drug use and a burgeoning population of illegal immigrants, to the relief of local residents who had been lobbying for authorities to intervene. «Admittedly, we have seen a real improvement over the past week following our meeting with police representatives,» said Dimitris Nikolakopoulos of the local residents’ initiative. However critics argue that the crackdown by police, including evictions from derelict buildings and arrests of suspects linked to drug dealing and prostitution, has merely led to the displacement of the problem a few blocks along, with the area of Metaxourgeio reportedly the worst affected. Members of the residents’ group that had lobbied for the sweep yesterday expressed their satisfaction with the cleanup but also fears that the initiative could be a pre-election tactic that will be abandoned after the October 4 polls. «It is entirely customary during periods of exceptional political significance that emergency, but ineffective, measures are taken to boost citizens’ sense of security,» said Theodoros Papatheodorou, an expert on crime-fighting policy at the University of Peloponnese. «As for problems with crime in the area, policing must be constant if it is to be effective,» he added. According to Yiannis Rahovitsas, a senior Attica police official who oversaw last week’s sweep, the cleanup of the city’s historic center is a top priority and will continue irrespective of political developments.