PM heralds neighborhood police policy

Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday that within a few months, the government would introduce a new system of intensive neighborhood policing, saying that the government wanted to keep Greece «one of the safest countries in Europe.» This was part of a campaign Simitis launched in a policy speech in Thessaloniki last month promising «security» in all forms, from the economy to the war against terrorism. With municipal and regional elections on Sunday, the focus turned to the neighborhood yesterday. Simitis visited the headquarters of the Greek Police where he was briefed by Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis and other senior officials on the actions and plans of the security forces. «With the establishment of the neighborhood policeman from early March of next year in Athens and Thessaloniki, and from 2004 in the whole country, crime prevention and detection will become even better,» Simitis said. «Petty crime, too, which creates a feeling of insecurity among citizens in their daily lives, will be dealt with more effectively. We want neighborhoods that are safe for citizens. The neighborhood policeman will be close to the citizen. Every citizen will know which officer is responsible for his neighborhood and will be able to go to him for every problem,» he added. «We want Greece to be one of the safest countries in Europe. And it is already one of the safest, if we compare the relative figures,» Simitis said. He noted that there are only 22 months to go before the Athens 2004 Olympics. «In this time, the Olympic Games security directorate will inspect all the operational plans that have been made, the new modern equipment that we are buying, the operational readiness of personnel, so that all will be ready for the Games. I am certain that the Athens 2004 Olympics will be safe and there will be no problems,» he said. Regarding the November 17 gang, he said: «Terrorism was a black page of our modern history. But it was a problem that we solved after it plagued our country for 27 whole years.» He noted that traffic police had already met their 2005 target of reducing accidents by 20 percent.