OPINION

Citizens alone against crime

citizens-alone-against-crime

A chronic and systemic problem in Greece is lackadaisical law enforcement, which undermines citizens’ sense of security and shakes their faith in justice.

The state’s weak efforts to impose order and safeguard social tranquillity force citizens either to endure lawlessness, or to confront the lawbreakers themselves, or to find ways to exploit the situation to their own ends, thus ensuring that the cycle of antisocial behavior does not end. From major criminals’ impunity to the smokers at the next table, it is usually up to citizens themselves to demand that the law be implemented, leading to direct confrontations between citizens where the state should preempt this.

The proposals for a new penal code which have been presented for public discussion do introduce positive adjustments to the system; but they also carry the seeds of even greater injustice, with all that this entails for society and politics. Among its provisions, crimes such as theft, fraud, embezzlement and breach of faith will no longer be prosecuted automatically but only after the victims have filed charges themselves. The state, in other words, is drawing back, abdicating its responsibility to fight crime and to defend the fundamental constitutional rights of the citizens, who are now obliged to shoulder this responsibility themselves.

It doesn’t take much thought to realize that many victims will not seek prosecutions, either because they believe it is not worth their trouble or because they succumb to threats – seeing as the criminals’ fate will now depend solely on them. How many citizens will put their faith in the state protecting them when contemplating the fury of thieves and conmen?

Forcing the citizen to shoulder this weight, along with changes to the code that will lead to many crimes not being punished, the state is not defending social tranquillity but actively undermining it. It is leaving people vulnerable, encouraging crime and reinforcing the feeling that there is no justice. Fear, anger and the subsequent demand for vigilantism drive political forces which preach anger and violence.

The wise lawgiver Solon noted that justice can exist only when those not affected by injustice are just as angry as its victims. We, wiser still, propose to pull the state from the citizen’s side, leaving him or her alone against crime. Who will benefit from this?